Here we are fast approaching the end of 2018 and anticipating what next year will hold for us all.
For this writer specifically, it means predicting whether or not 2019 will finally be the year when 4K, and most importantly 4K HDR (high dynamic range), will start to break through to cable line-ups and be available to U.S. subscribers — without having to add OTT services that offer 4K, or to rely on DVDs that are released in 4K HDR by the big Hollywood studios.
Before formulating any plans, though, a view of the last 12 months might be a good place to start — as it has been said, looking to the future requires an understanding of the past.
Well, 2018 certainly saw changes in the 4K business around the world with more 24/7 linear networks being launched and more sporting events gracing the big screen on 4K TVs.
It does seem that once sports, especially live sports, start to embrace and deliver new 4K HDR technology, regular TV always follows.
Going back a couple of years, there were only one or two major sporting events offered by a satellite company to its viewers. But 2018 saw multiple events across multiple sports and multiple platforms start to be delivered, all in a minimum of 4K, but many in 4K HDR.
So, if we look at the year we are still in as an indicator, then the answer is yes, that 4K and HDR are starting to make major breakthroughs. But not everything can be judged by sporting events, so a deeper analysis must take place.
The cable industry has continued to see some subscribers disappear — and if the analysts are to be believed, they are likely gone forever. Not everyone agrees, but that is an entirely different subject for an entirely different time.
Early this year, U.S.-based Vivicast Media predicted that we would see 4K channels start to evolve into cable and that these 4K networks could save MSOs from the high churn rate they were experiencing. Although there are many companies now delivering VoD to their 4K-audiences, there are MSOs that are carrying 24/7 4K and 24/7 HDR networks — and are getting some interesting results.
Execs from one cable company that took some time to speak to Vivicast Media reps said that using 4K as a marketing tool had done very well for them. In fact, companies that had deployed 4K channels were very upbeat, noting that it was helping with subs retention as well as getting them geared up for the future.
It can also be said that the inquiries regarding 4K networks by cable companies in North America and LATAM were up significantly, and all but a handful of companies are now starting to believe that 4K HDR is soon going to be a big part of their offerings. Indeed, quite a few have decided that VoD is their most likely toe-in-the-water start.
Why is VoD is the obvious starting point instead of live TV? At one industry event, the panelists, who consisted of 4K industry experts, lauded the fact that “TV was dead and that VoD was the only way to go moving forward in our industry.” Another point made was “there was no content or very limited content available in 4K. So if you as a cable company wanted to make 4K and HDR available to your audience you could only do it via VoD.”
Next year, it might be nice if some of the panelists opt to do a bit of research into what is actually happening in 4K content and how much is available before they speak.
The upcoming year will be the “4K is for real year” and a lot of positives will take place for everyone involved in 4K and HDR. Consumers are becoming more educated, and while there is still a way to go, the trend seems to be pointing towards some of the bigger U.S. cable companies deploying full-time 24/7 4K networks, along with their 4K VoD and 4K special event services.
In 2019, some of the biggest TV networks will realize that 4K and HDR is a good way to keep audiences, rather than building more direct-to-consumer platforms to take the consumer away from cable.
HDR is poised to be the next big thing. Already, some of the small independent 4K networks are launching 4K HDR channels, and more will follow in 2019. Once the picture quality of 4K HDR starts to be seen more widely, the corner will be turned. At that time, we will see the gas pedal hit hard and 4K and HDR will be as ubiquitous as HD is today.
(By Stuart Smitherman, president of Vivicast Media)
A P R I L 3 0 - M A Y 7 , 2 0 1 8, M U LT I C H A N N E L N E W S
Embracing 4K technology is big key to continued relevance
IF YOU WERE TO make an attempt to peer ahead at what’s in store over the next decade for the cable industry, what would you see? How much does Hollywood — the majors, the production community, the consumers — care about its survival? If cable is to be more successful than ever, what elements would be responsible for its success? Conversely, what elements would be responsible for its decline?
Looking at the overall landscape, one can’t help but consider how the very networks that have greatly benefited from cable exposure over the past decades are engaged in a full-court press to cut them out of the supply chain — while also going after their customers.
But change often brings a silver lining if operators are prepared to think a little outside the box (literally and figuratively). It is time for cable executives to become the leaders they once were, rather than followers. Estimates are that 25% of U.S. households now have some form of 4K TV and the numbers are growing at about five times the speed as the adoption from SD to HD. The cable industry is positioned to remain the first choice of viewing, and not just become a fat pipe.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve been discussing the merits of 4K with cable companies, and the positive impact it could have. Several operators have shared that they may opt to discontinue any and all video programming altogether in favor of only providing broadband services. Programming is simply not generating profits due to the per-subscriber fees charged by networks. That leads to an obvious follow-up question: Why can’t operators pass on this cost to their customers? As you might have guessed, there is not an easy answer, as consumers often think that the cable industry is increasing costs for their video offering to simply increase profits. If the true costs of carriage is unknown to the customer then they will continue to seek a more cost-effective viewing experience, and the major networks will become the beneficiaries with their direct-to-consumer apps.
How 4K Comes Into Play
As the average 4K channel streams at between 15 Megabits per second and 25 Mbps it would take some serious changes and upgrades to the current codecs to deliver 4K over a CDN network. I would suggest that it would be incredibly difficult to keep the true integrity of the picture quality to mass consumers today in order to deliver 4K OTT. As a reference point, there were some serious
issues reported with OTT platforms performance when trying to deliver an HD version of the Super Bowl to their customers. If it was 4K and HDR, the issues would have been even more severe.
For an OTT provider that has tens of thousands of subscribers, it is not such an issue, but to the OTT providers that have hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of direct customers, it is a headache that will not be cured overnight.
Companies such as Netflix rely heavily on cable company infrastructure and some clever routing to get 4K directly to the consumer, and even that 4K picture quality is not always as sharp as it should be. If the OTT providers and network-owned apps can’t deliver 4K effectively, then that leaves the cable company as the best solution. An apparent solution is to give customers the 4K and HDR experience they are increasingly demanding. Cable companies are more optimally positioned to provide true 4K and HDR, unlike OTT and apps. However, cable operators are telling me they are waiting for the big networks to deliver 4K channels and then they will deliver to their cable customers. This seems like an astonishing position given that the networks are going directly after the cable subscribers.
Why would a group that is trying to attract your customer offer cable a 4K channel that they would then be reliant on to deliver the product? We are very well aware in the 4K world that most content that is now shown on many major networks is originally shot in 4K and downconverted to HD and as the networks move forward this trend will continue. But if the cable companies don’t have 4K clients then the networks don’t need to deliver 4K, and so the way is clear for the status quo to continue. Ultimately, it would appear that the winner will be the network, not the cable company.
Slow Rollout Breeds Opportunity
There are a handful of 4K channels available today, mainly independent companies that have gotten in front of the curve to deliver 4K programming. As it remains unlikely that the big networks
are going to launch 24/7 4K channels very soon this could present the industry with an opportunity.
Customers want 4K and HDR based on their breakneck speed purchasing of 4K compatible TVs. It is safe to assume that the networks won’t be launching 4K channels because they can’t deliver directly to the consumer. That gives cable operators a window to act. Under this scenario, networks
would have to rely on cable for delivery — and operators would gain back some negotiating power
as they have, at the moment, the infrastructure that can meet the 4K viewers’ expectation.
Cable companies have “the fat pipe” that could very well prepare them not only to meet the rising 4K and HDR demands, but also the further pressure that will eventually be forthcoming from the emergence of 5G. As that technology becomes heavily deployed, will a company that has dropped video and other sticky products even remain relevant?
Stuart Smitherman is president of Vivicast Media.
He can be reached at Stuart@vivicast.com.
Blog on www.xkcontent.com
What TV did I buy? Cause I am confused.
Having been to the big-box store or surfed the web for the latest TV for you and your family, you will almost certainly have looked at 4k TV’s and UHD TV’s as well as TV’s that have HDR.
I am going to assume that as you are reading this you bought one of these, if not this might help clear some of the confusion up for you.
That new great looking TV is in your home but, what exactly did you buy and how can I see this amazing content that will showcase why I spent a little bit more to get this bad boy in my house? It says it is UHD but everyone keeps telling me about 4k and the person I bought the TV from said they are the exact same thing!
Well, let’s start with the easy stuff. Whether it says UHD or 4k on the box, it essentially the same thing for you but, they are different. The difference between UHD and 4k is in essence something you do not need to worry about and has more to do with the difference in Cinema standards, 4k. And broadcast/ TV displays, UHD. It has become apparent throughout the world that 4k is looking like the standard word that we will use for Ultra High Definition and 4k, so from here on out let’s just say CONGRATULATIONS you have a 4k TV. I will cover HDR at a later time.
Now there is a lot of technical stuff that I could go into but, I am guessing that if you really wanted a history lesson on this subject you would have already done so and I want to get to the stuff that is more interesting;-).
“My 4k TV is up and running”. Is it?
The 4k TV is up on the wall and I want to start watching 4k content so I can show all my friends how cool this thing is. I plugged in my cable cable box, connected it via HDMI and look my cable service looks great, I can’t believe the difference in picture quality WOW!!!!!!! I feel like I am actually there with the actors, this is so cool. Sadly, unless you have a cable company that offers 4k content and they have supplied you a 4k compatible Set-top-box you are not getting 4k you are getting a better picture but you have not even started to see what real 4k looks like.
Let’s start with the easy stuff that people just forget to tell you.
Did you get a 4k compatible HDMI cable? If you are like the vast majority of people I have spoken to the answer is no. Back to the store and make sure the HDMI says it is 4k, quick tip for you, I buy mine at Sam’s or Costco they are cheaper and they work fine plus having a spare is never a bad idea.
I have the 4k HDMI cable and now I am ready………..right?
You are getting there but make sure you read the TV Manufacturers booklet, many TV’s have a specific HDMI port for 4k and that should be shown in the getting started section of the pamphlet. If you threw it away because you already knew how to plug a TV in (that’s the kinda thing I do) look at where the HDMI ports are and if the HDMI cable needs to be in a specific port it usually has a label next to that port. Don’t panic if it does not have a specific port, more and more TV’s are being made where you can plug that cable into any port. Now you are all plugged in the TV is ready, all you need is to find the content
Next time we will discuss where to get your 4k content and touch on HDR.
Millennials’ 4K UHD channel #C4K360 starts its worldwide distribution with leading Pay-TV platforms ETISALAT & TRICOLOR
#C4K360, the world’s first and only 24/7 UHD 4K channel dedicated to Millennials has completed 2 major distribution deals with leading Pay-TV operators TRICOLOR in Russia and ETISALAT in the United Arabic Emirates (UAE).
Tailored to young audiences, #C4K360 offers Ultra HD content featuring high-end entertainment programmes including Lifestyle magazines, Interviews, Travel Destinations, Gaming/Gameplay, Extreme sports, e-Sports, together with mega concerts and festivals in native 4K UHD, as well as other amazing premium 4K UHD content. Viewers of #C4K360 can even “Go VR” on their mobile devices by flashing QR codes appearing on their TV screen to enjoy immersive VR videos being pushed directly in their hands and pockets.
With 14 million subscribers TRICOLOR is the leading European DTH platform and number 1 Pay-TV operator in Russia. #C4K360, which is available via the Express-AMU and Eutelsat 36B satellites in MPEG-4, has launched on August 1 and is now included in TRICOLOR’s Ultra HD package.
ETISALAT is the UAE's leading telecommunications operator and one of the largest corporations in the MENA. ETISALAT serves 11.6 million residential customers. As well as establishing several "firsts" over the past four decades, ETISALAT has deployed many innovative technologies and services to remain at the leading edge of customer experience. #C4K360 has been launched June 1st on ETISALAT’s cable and IPTV homes.
“#C4K360 goes beyond TV to give a total immersive 4K experience and fully embraces the second screen. We are very excited to reveal to our community our premium exclusive 4K & VR content. With #C4K360 and a mobile device, participate in mega concerts and thrilling events, be part of a drone race, dance among thousands of people at festivals, dive from a plane or sit in the first row on roller coasters! Stop watching, start living!” said Chairman and CEO Stéphane SCHWEITZER.
Always at the forefront of innovation, the creators of Clubbing TV have launched this year #C4K360, the first 4K UHD linear channel giving access to virtual reality. The new UHD channel fully embraces the second screen concept with 360° Virtual Reality premium content in addition to ultra-high resolution production values, increasingly important to millennial viewers. Already transmitted on EUTELSAT HOTBIRD & ASTRA SES-1, #C4K360 is licensed across North America via Vivicast Media and across Europe & Asia by Turnaround TV.
Can’t wait to see? Meet us at MIPCOM Booth P-1.C67