VI-Voices: The Future of 4K TVs, The Darling of CES 2014

/ Jan 13, 2014


Welcome to VideoInk’s newest weekly editorial series, VideoInk Voices, in which we will canvas thoughts about relevant digital video topics from executives and other smart thinkers in our industry. New posts, each with a new question and a collection of the best responses, will roll out every Monday.  As the saying goes, if it matters to the people featured below, it should matter to you. (If that’s not a saying, it should be.)

The biggest trend at CES 2014 was arguably 4K TVs and technology that supports the delivery of video content at such a high level. Do you see a future with this technology, or is it more of a fad like 3D TVs? What needs to happen to ensure wider adoption among consumers?

David Anderson, MediaLink:

“We absolutely agree that 4k TV’s was the probably the biggest trend at CES this year.  4k is a natural evolution for an existing content experience with wide adoption and consumption.  We believe less in the specific standards, 4k then 8k etc. but rather there is a significant desire on behalf of consumers to improve their viewing experience on any screen.  The greatest barrier we see is the ability of distributors – both MVPD’s and OTT platforms to deliver (at scale) this quality of content.  Absent a robust library of streaming content we believe consumers will continue to delay device upgrades until their is a compelling reason.  3D technology has always been a niche content experience and is likely to remain limited to a small number of executions whereby the experience is improved by 3D whereas consumers have long experienced greater content resolutions outside the home.”

Steve Bradbury, Chief Operating Officer, Zazoom:

“4K could reach market acceptance…over time. The CE industry seems to have learned valuable lessons from 3D by enrolling more key players into the space earlier in the lifecycle. Google has announced a new streaming format for sites like YouTube, Amazon is working with the major studios, Netflix has staked their initial claim with ‘House of Cards,’ and Sony is making 4K plans for the World Cup. This is a strong start. However, many other elements need to fall in place before hardware prices will fall to mass market levels. This includes a far broader diversity of content from both large and small producers. Only then can consumer demand potentially shift from ‘curiosity’ to ‘like to have’ and finally ‘need to have.’”

Megan Cunningham, Founder & CEO, Magnet Media

“I am of two minds with 4K. One one side, I think in the visual demonstration (with uncompressed footage) is awe-inspiring. I literally felt chills every time I watched some stunning scenes move on to the screen. I couldn’t take my eyes off it — it was as if my visual cortex was receiving a massage! But on the flip side, I’m cynical about its widespread proliferation — for a few reasons. First, many consumers just bought an HDTV in the past few years and — like a car — TVs are not the type of purchase most Americans replace without a very compelling reason. Second, I don’t feel the media industry has the stomach for an ‘optional’ technology adoption — when so much of our world’s transition is not optional (OTT, touchscreen tablet compatibility, mobile video streaming and ad serving, first-person authentication, addressable TV, new set-top boxes and consoles, app dev, and even social TV).

With both of these facts in mind, I was speaking with a fellow TV executive, Fred Butcher, from Time Warner Cable Media, and he mentioned something that no one has been saying: Just because you own a 4K set doesn’t mean you’ll magically have 4K resolution. Think about it — we are all watching highly compressed signals delivered to our homes through cable and data lines. If we were to receive and be able to watch true 2K resolution right now most people would mistake it for a visually upgraded set! The limitation isn’t the set — it’s the throughput infrastructure.

So in short I don’t think 4K will take off in the near term because of what it’s up against from a business, technical, and political perspective.”

David Beebe, Founder & CEO, David Beebe Projects

“CES is my favorite place to watch all the ‘married guys’ lose their minds and forget about their wives back home, and there’s no doubt we’ll eventually watch those stories play out on 4K TVs. We have a long way to go until 4K reaches its tipping point and won’t make HD production or consumption obsolete anytime soon. The first adopters will be digital producers and distributors, like YouTube and Netflix, who are already doing so by leading the way. Traditional broadcasters will follow the trend, as technology and consumer demand drive down the price and 4K becomes more popular.  From what I’ve seen, the differences in detail between HD and 4K are limited, but large-screen viewing will always be a lean back experience regardless of the technology, platform, or ‘what’ people argue is ‘king’ — great stories always find an audience as they always have.”

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