Associations Converge To Promote UHD TV
Three different multi-industry trade associations with deep interests in expanding the Ultra HD market and ecosystem recently converged on CES 2019 to update the industry on some of the accomplishments they’ve achieved and plans they have made to further the popularity of in home AV entertainment technologies and services.
These groups included the Ultra HD Alliance (UHDA), the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) and the newly established 8K Association.
Both the UHDA and the BDA have been issuing state-of-the-market reports for the past several years, but this was the first time the 8K Association made its presence known at the global show.
In making its formal kickoff, the 8K Association’s executive director Chris Chinnock, who long has been principal of Insight Media, demonstrated the need and the urgency of establishing a multi-industry trade group to tackle the numerous and potentially difficult remaining obstacles to making 8K adoption take off as 4K Ultra HD has.
The 8K Association is positioned as a “not for profit” multi-industry body that currently lists among its founding member companies: AUO, Hisense, Panasonic, Samsung, and TCL.
According the group’s mission statement, the primary goals will be to promote 8K TVs and 8K content to consumers and professionals; educate consumers and professionals about the 8K ecosystem; secure 8K native content for members; encourage service providers (especially OTT) to develop 8K offerings; facilitate communication within the 8K ecosystem to help with commercialization; develop initial technical requirements for 8K input signals and develop initial 8K TV product categories using minimum specifications for image quality
Chinnock is bullish that the 8K ecosystem will grow and flourish just as the 4K Ultra HD ecosystem did. The timing of the 8K Association’s startup is critical, he said, in the face of the start of 8K broadcasts in Japan preparing for the 2020 Olympics that country will host, while the rest of the world so far has lagged behind.
The 8K group will work to make clear to all parties the value of 8K production although 8K distribution challenges remain, keeping the availability of native 8K content extremely limited. Chinnock said the consumer-value proposition needs careful explaining especially in the early years when 8K equipment and displays are expensive.
Chinnock said the 8K Association will put together a logo program to help develop and identify minimum specifications for 8K performance levels. These are expected to be practical tools for setting performance bars to separate category capabilities. The specification targets for these classifications will be established by members, who will also determine “an open metrology for measuring performance,” according to the 8K Association’s statement.
Chinnock envisions this being “similar to the VESA displayHDR program and more comprehensive than Ultra HD definitions established by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).”
For the consumer education component of the 8K Association, Chinnock said the group will look to run a campaign across web and at retail. This will be “similar to efforts of UHD Alliance but with an 8K focus.”
The Association will also present regular industry meetings to educate professionals on advancements in the 8K ecosystem.
When asked about the 8K Association’s declarations, Mike Fidler, president of the UHDA, refused to take a position for or against the body, pointing out that the scope of the UHDA encompasses 8K as well as 4K resolution products. The obvious overlap in certain common objectives was not addressed.
For his part, Fidler said the UHDA continues to make significant progress in the promotion and advancement of Ultra HD products, content and services.
The UHDA currently list 43 members encompassing electronics manufacturers, technology companies, movie and television studios, and content distributors. Among more recent member additions were: Charter Communications and Google, which are both interested in advancing the delivery of content with high dynamic range (HDR).
As part of this, Google introduced its Pixel 3, which quickly earned the UHDA’s certification as a Mobile HDR Premium product, Fidler said.
The UHDA added 46 new UHDA Premium certified products last year, bringing the total to 63 items including TVs, computer monitors, mobile devices and Ultra HD Blu-ray Players, available from a total of 10 companies.
The UHDA also has been busy establishing new broadcast recommendations which are expected to be useful in the eventual delivery of Ultra HD Premium certified broadcast content.
Fidler said the UHDA will continue to work cooperatively with standards bodies and industry organizations to help push acceptance of the latest video technologies and advancements.
He pointed to cooperative promotional and educational programs between the UHDA, the Digital Entertainment Group, the Blu-ray Disc Association and others.
As previously reported, the UHDA began an ExperienceUHD.com website in 2017, which it has significantly expanded and upgraded last year. The site provides “how to” guides to Ultra HD home theater adoption and set up while providing educational information on the value and benefits of high dynamic range (HDR), immersive audio formats and a wide color gamut, in addition to 4K resolution alone.
Fidler observed that the efforts have resonated particularly well with age groups identifying themselves as Millennials and Generation Z.
The UHDA is also working to lessen some of the incompatibility headaches that sometimes occur between devices of different brands and capability levels.
Fidler said one of the on-going goals of the UHDA is to enhance the ease of use and interoperability between Ultra HD devices. The group goes out and purchases products at retail to test and then lists on its website identified issues along with advice on solving some of the more common ones.
Coming soon, he said, will be posting test patterns to help consumers determine for themselves how their televisions handle HDR if at all.
In other efforts, the UHDA worked with retailers including Amazon on presenting the benefits of Ultra HD, with Amazon taking the rare step of adding links to the UHDA’s ExperienceUHD.com educational site.
The UHDA and the Digital Entertainment Group Europe also worked cooperatively on making key educational data available for retailers to leverage, as the UHDA expands its reach into Europe.
In the United States, the UHDA and the DEG also jointly presented a forum in Los Angeles last fall to promote the benefits of 4K Ultra HD products and content, with an informative testimonial from Hollywood director Christopher Nolan on the benefits of 4K Ultra HD, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and the benefits they bring through greater resolution, HDR and color realism.
As for the burgeoning 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray market, the BDA reported that adoption continues to enjoy a healthy growth rate, particularly in the North American and Western European regions of the world.
Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales were estimated to have grown 44% in 2018 to 2.3 million units, compared to the prior year. This is expected to climb another 30% in 2019 to 2.9 million units, according to Futuresource data supplied by the BDA.
Global 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray sales (excluding Xbox One) continued to grow steadily in 2018, with an estimated 83% increase over the prior year. This should grow another 45% in 2019, according market research predictions supplied by the BDA. As for disc sales, Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to account for 11% of all Blu-ray Discs sold worldwide in 2018. This is expected to climb to 22% by 2020 and 40% by 2022, according to the BDA.
Last year, some 15% of all Blu-ray players shipped around the world were stand-alone 4K Ultra HD models, the BDA said, this should rise to a predicted 25% in 2019. The installed base of UHD Blu-ray player is believed to have reached 4.5 million at the end of 2018, the BDA said.
As of December 2018, 29 4K UHD BD player models had been introduced and 11 4K UHD recorder/player models (used mainly in Japan).
Not mentioned, however, was the prognosis for the development of an 8K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. We asked several executives affiliated with manufacturers of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs, and most mentioned that so far interest from studios has been tepid, as they look to develop greater capabilities through digital streaming.
Digital streaming movies and television programs continues to gain momentum, even though 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray continues to offer a significant picture and sound quality improvement using physical disc media.
Most of the Ultra HD Blu-ray player growth is being fueled by the continuing global shift in sales toward 4K Ultra HDTVs, particularly in screen sizes of 50-inches and larger.
Although the availability of digitally streamed 4K movies and television programs is growing rapidly, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray continues to enjoy a window of demand held open by the format’s superior bit rate and support of advanced surround sound formats that produce a more immersive viewing experience on better quality 4K Ultra HD televisions, home theater systems and sound bars. These formats, like Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio, aren’t bandwidth efficient and are not supported by leading streaming services.
By Greg Tarr
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