It’s no longer a debate about when 4K will take off. Based on my experience with HD, it won’t be an easy road but it’s certainly an inevitable march.
The competitive positioning has already begun; from Sony and Netflix through to pay-TV operators. In India Videocon d2h and Tata Sky have announced earlier in July that 2015 is the year to make it a reality.
In essence, 4K creates a new buying cycle for TV manufacturers and allows the studios to refresh their content. We’re already witnessing the price point drop for 4K ultra HD TVs. The Business Insider report indicates prices have fallen by 85% worldwide in just 2 years. Indeed Xiaomi ultra HD TVs are available for USD 640.00 Content providers are on the bandwagon, too. Availability of 4K content is improving. Most Hollywood digital content is filmed in 4K resolution. So too are some TV/OTT shows, and ESPN already record most of their sports in 4K quality. And the industry is addressing the delivery hurdles. For example HDMI 2.0, DOCSIS 3.1 as well as HEVC chips. Ultimately, barriers for adoption are likely to be gone in 2 to 3 years.
Deciding now for the future
What does the 4K dynamic mean to the current pay-TV operators buying cycle decisions? For instance:
- Image quality: 4K brings increased motion sensitivity, expanded color space, higher dynamic range, etc. How is a balance achieved between quality versus convenience?
- Navigation: 4K capabilities extend the possibility for accessing content beyond traditional text. What is the best way to incorporate graphics, gesture control, web browsing and voice activated commands to bring content discovery and recommendations to a new level. How are companion devices linked for social media and interaction?
- Content security: 4K shifts the focus more towards forensics and management. This is particularly effective for live content such as sports. The 2016 Olympic Games is one such prime event. Can operators gain insight from the financial services industry which has developed an infrastructure around expert security detection and monitoring?
- Business model: 4K challenges the norm. Is it a catalyst for consolidation: rental, subscription and sell through? Or is 4K not a revenue generator but an influencing factor in consumer stickiness?
In answering the questions it is clear that operators need a flexible distribution platform to succeed. Why? My prediction is that, unlike HD, 4K/UHD will be the first format to be introduced simultaneously across lots of devices. Having a comprehensive, end-to-end security service that works across all platforms and a consistent user experience across all devices becomes paramount. Examining these and other impacts for pay-TV operators is the topic of my next post.