There has been a lot of hype over the last few months about the future of television. Following CES in Las Vegas in January, curved screens and 4K (ultra-HD) TVs are being touted as the next big thing for your living room with industry analysts suggesting that ultra HD TV shipments could reach 12.7 million this year (source NPD DisplaySearch).
Even smartphones, such as the new Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G Pro 2, are boasting 4K capture and playback to provide users with a better quality experience. But new technology such as this often faces a chicken-and-egg problem. Even if you bought a 4K TV or had a smartphone that supported 4K, what can you watch on it?
It is evident that there is a huge enthusiasm around the industry for 4K content production. Camera technology with 4K and greater capability has been around for a while and it has been rumoured that Panasonic will debut its production model of the 4K VariCam 35 at NAB in April. While Sony has been driving its 4K agenda over the past few months with demonstrations of 4K acquisition and display products and its recently launched Sony professional camera and audio line up. A number of video editing tools are also capable of editing 4K including Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Apple Final Cut Pro X.
However, the current lack of availability of widespread 4K content could contribute to consumer hesitancy in investing in a 4K/ultra HD TV in the near future. Very few movies support the new resolution, networks are only just launching the HD versions of their channels, and some Blu-Ray players say that they convert high-definition video to something approximating ultra HD. Yet it appears that online companies such as Netflix and TV manufacturers have taken the lead in ensuring that this content is available for consumers to view now.
On 14th February, the second season of ‘House Of Cards premiered on Netflix in 4K. The video-streaming service will also present all five seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’ and many of Netflix’s future original series in 4K. Netflix also announced it has made an undisclosed payment to Comcast for direct access to the cable company’s broadband network, in order to ensure smooth delivery of its content. The end result is that Netflix customers should see much higher quality streams than they have been doing, especially for higher resolution HD and 4K content. The implications of this deal for 4K content could be massive – after all, Netflix’s bandwidth throttling problems were most acute during peak times, and could get worse when shows as ‘House of Cards’ is broadcast in 4K Ultra HD. With the company promising even more 4K content to come later this year, it appears as though the biggest single obstacle in the way of it doing this has been removed for viewers in the US.
Sony also has its own library of 4K films that customers can rent and purchase for download on Sony’s 4K Ultra HD Media Player for playback on Sony 4K Ultra HD televisions. Similarly Samsung has a partnership with Amazon that will give those with Samsung TVs access to 4K content from a range of partner providers including Warner Bros, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox and Discovery.
With these great investments it does look like 4K is here to stay. The industry is embracing it fully and it appears as though those at the helm are going to the efforts to get more native 4K content to consumers. But will it really take off? Will we all have 4K TVs by the end of the year? Or will consumers see it as a fad as they did with 3D TV? Only time will tell…
Let us know what you think. Would you invest in a 4K TV or 4K phone now?