CES was all about 4K TVs if you were looking at the latest television technology from CE brands at the show. Heck, they even renamed 4K to UHD or Ultra High Definition to make more appealing to consumers!
In 2012 I heard a lot about 4K in talks with HDTV vendors and there was a lot of activity in labs. There was also a lot of discussion around pulling together concepts to test with real consumers.
CES had a lot of UHD product demos. But if you looked closely, as usual, those were canned demonstrations. They were new prototype sets – because new commercially produced sets are not available yet. The content running on them was specially created to show off color brilliance and depth, resolution quality, and motion control. This is nothing different from demos of past generations of HDTVs at major tradeshows. And this content was running off a hard drive.
HDTV vendors are focusing on trying to hit a Q4 2013 window for UHD sets in the US, but right now the price points look north of $8,000. The content that will be available then looks non-existent.
You see the one great thing missing from this picture is content. There isn’t a UHD content solution from a major service provider’s broadcast solution- Xfinity, U-verse, FiOS, DirecTV, or DISH Network in the immediate future. And their current networks do not have the bandwidth for the loads that a 4K signal will require, not to mention the amount of set top boxes that will need to be swapped out.
What you didn’t hear at CES much was 3D. That’s because 3D has fallen on deaf ears if you look at consumer consumption of 3D content. Oh, yes sales of 3D enabled sets are decent, but that’s because every TV brand has pushed the idea of future proofing 3D into their lines in the hopes that consumers would embrace the experience. They have not, and especially if it commands a noticeable price premium.
So it’s no surprise that UHD is the new marketing buzzword this year in the HDTV community, drowning out 3D. Yes, 4K technology is already in place at the cinema level, with Sony notably the leader in 4K cameras and projection equipment. But in order to deliver that kind of experience in people’s homes, you need the support of the last mile- the service provider serving up the TV and broadband experience.
Without that, 4K or UHD TV may look great but without content it won’t add enough to household viewing experiences, much like 3D.
- Randy Giusto