Consumers are lighting the path toward worldwide acceptance of Ultra HD (UHD). Recent research from Eutelsat Communications revealed that consumers are willing to pay up to 10 a month to benefit from the increased sharpness, immersion and vivid color that UHD content offers. Theyre also willing to invest in new UHD TV sets priced between 1,000 and 3,000 for screens within the 50-inch range. The same study found that pay-TV subscribers showed a strong preference for linear UHD channels, while viewers that have cut the cord expressed a preference for VOD and occasional, event-specific content in UHD.
While consumer interest has been peaking, the challenge with UHD, thus far, has been delivering UHD content in high quality using minimum bandwidth. This article will examine the hurdles video content and service providers face when delivering UHD content, the current state of UHD deployments and future technology advancements on the horizon for this exciting new video format.
There are several roadblocks that stand in the way of UHD services being deployed on a global scale, including absence of a single UHD standard, lack of a defined workflow for UHD production and delivery and shortage of infrastructure bandwidth.
Right now there are several standards bodies, forums and alliances working on defining an UHD profile. The Ultra HD Forum is one group making significant headway. Currently, the Forum is in the midst of setting up guidelines for UHD technologies such High Dynamic Range (HDR), High Frame Rate (HFR) and Next generation Audio (NGA). In addition, the Forum is looking to outline an end-to-end video production and delivery chain for live and VOD UHD services.
Additionally, the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) codec has emerged as a viable solution for bandwidth compression, allowing video content and service providers to deliver superior quality services such as UHD using the same amount of bandwidth.
Once the industry agrees on an UHD profile and workflow for end-to-end production and delivery, and incorporates HEVC solutions into their architecture, pay-TV operators can move forward with introducing UHD offerings.
Fixing the Bandwidth Issue
To date, UHD service offerings have been slow to market. Most UHD content today is viewed as VOD via OTT service providers. However, that may be changing thanks to the recent introduction of NASA TV UHD, the first consumer UHD channel in North America launched by Harmonic and NASA.