CES: UHD Experts Mull Content Options8 Jan, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey
LAS VEGAS — A day after both consumer electronics and content companies made a big splash with 4K content and hardware announcements, the experts offered their opinion on whether or not Ultra-HD (UHD) has a chance of succeeding,
And the consensus was “yes.” If it’s done right, that is.
Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies, has been at this since the days of TV’s black-and-white years, and there’s one constant he’s noticed with screens and consumers: The screens get better, and the consumers follow.
“The 4K business is real, and it’s going to be sustainable,” he said, speaking Jan. 7 at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). “It’s hard to believe that 4K won’t be accepted fact in 3 to 5 years.”
For 4K to succeed in the home, content producers need to keep it in mind from day one. Studios can re-master content — and have, repeatedly with each video innovation — but costs can be kept down in the long run if content producers future-proof in anticipation of 4K.
“The big issue that’s holding some back is all the data you create [with 4K],” he said. “The codecs that are being used on consumer [UHD] sets knock down the data considerably. It’s completely manageable.”
Tom Cosgrove, president and CEO of 3net Studios, said his company is a testament to the industry’s commitment to 4K. 3net has produced 20 hours of content in 4K, and will have 80 finished by the end of the year, he said.
And Tony Werner, EVP and chief technology officer for Comcast Cable — which announced at CES its commitment to delivering 4K via 2014 UHD TVs — said bandwidth restrictions really don’t exist for delivering 4K content.
“[But] I’m concerned about [the industry] getting enough content created and in the vault,” he said. He argued that content companies that don’t invest in 4K production are only holding themselves, and the industry at large, back.
In other CES news:
Consumer Electronics Association
The consumer electronics industry is set to reach a record high of $208 billion in revenue this year, according to a forecast from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), with new and emerging categories — including Ultra-HD (UHD) — driving 65% of the growth.
The $208 billion figure would be a 2.4% jump over 2013, and the CE industry has technologies like 3D printers, Bluetooth wireless speakers, convertible PCs, smart watches and UHD TVs to thank for the growth, which together with other technologies will contribute an estimated $6 billion overall.
“We are at the forefront of a momentous wave of innovation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA. “The incredible growth that emerging product categories such as Ultra-HD TV, wearable electronics and 3D printers will experience this year underscores the significant role new technologies play in the total consumer electronics story.”
Smartphone unit shipments are projected to hit 152 million this year, up from 138 million units in 2013, with revenue expected at $41 billion, a 4.6% increase from $39 billion in 2013.
Tablets are projected to hit 89.3 million units this year, up from 77.4 million in 2013, with revenue at $27.3 billion, up 3%.
Ultra-HD display sales are expected to pass $1 billion for the first time in 2014, while next-generation console sales are projected to hit $5.7 billion for the year.
Sony Electronics Jan. 7 announced it will launch a cloud-based TV service that combines live TV content with digital media. The announcement came during the company’s keynote address to open the 2014 CES.
Details regarding the service were scarce, though Sony reps said the IPTV service will work across multiple screens and will also feature a VOD element.
Sony Computer Entertainment America also announced the launch of PlayStation Now, which will bring game streaming to both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
“PlayStation Now offers the first ever streaming game service on consoles powered by our exclusive advanced cloud-based technology,” the company said in a news release. “Gamers can now play games the same way they stream TV, movies and music: instantly.”
The service is expected to expand to PlayStation Vita, Sony Bravia-branded HDTVs and other Sony and non-Sony devices.
Lastly, Sony shared that it has now sold approximately 4.2 million PlayStation 4s since its late-2013 launch.
Rovi and DivX
Rovi Corp.’s DivX digital rights management (DRM), which has previously been approved for streaming use within the UltraViolet ecosystem, has now received conditional approval for digital downloads and the copying of downloads on portable drives for the buy once, play anywhere cloud-based digital content service.
The approval means DivX will now work in collaboration with the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the cross-industry consortium behind UltraViolet, to help offer content for downloads and off-line viewing.
“We share DECE’s vision of entertainment freedom for consumers and are pleased that DivX DRM has achieved conditional approval for use with UltraViolet content in the DECE common file format (CFF),” said Dr. Kanaan Jemili, SVP of product management for Rovi. “Once approved for deployment, DivX DRM will be one of only a small number of DRMs approved by the DECE for UltraViolet use, which is a true testament to the quality of our solution.”
UltraViolet’s CFF allows for download functionality consistent across all UltraViolet retailers and service providers.
“As a founding member of DECE, Rovi has long been a valued key participant in designing the UltraViolet ecosystem and managing its roll-out,” said Mark Teitell, GM of DECE. “We look forward to continuing to work with them toward an expanded role for DivX within the overall UltraViolet experience.”
Vizio Jan. 7 showed off its P-Series UHD TVs, with a price point of $1,000 for a 50-inch set, up to $2,600 for a massive 70-inch screen.
The sets — which also come in 55-, 60- and 65-inch sizes — all included Internet connected apps, LED backlighting and high-speed refresh rates.
“As more content becomes available, we took a step back and designed our Ultra-HD platform with the features and performance to last as the space expands,” said Matt McRae, chief technology officer for Vizio. “Vizio’s new P-Series collection contains a carefully developed assortment of new Vizio innovations that dramatically improve picture quality and Smart TV features, culminating in a beautifully simple Ultra-HD option for discerning viewers.”
Netflix will be among the content companies that will offer 4K content on the Vizio UHD TVs.
"The primary way to watch TV shows or movies in Ultra-HD 4K will be streaming,” said Joris Evers, director global corporate communications for Netflix. “As the world's leading Internet TV network, Netflix will be at the forefront of delivering this new TV experience. We are glad Vizio will enable consumers to enjoy Netflix Ultra-HD 4K streaming."
There’s a new 4K player in town.
San Jose, Calif.-based NanoTech Entertainment has unveiled a new streaming media player (the Nuvola NP-1) that supports 4K video. The company is also launching a 4K streaming video service, dubbed UltraFlix.
The player works with any Ultra-HD TV, regardless of brand, and the four-by-four inch player will retail for $299. NanoTech promises to support 4K services like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and YouTube.
4K content for NanoTech’s UltraFlix UHD service is slim, though the company did announce an exclusive agreement to distribute the indie feature film Moonshine Kingdom.
“We met the folks at NanoTech Entertainment during [American Film Market] this year when Moonshine Kingdom made its debut,” said Milton Horowitz, the film's writer and director. “We’re excited to be a part of this historical event in technology and the added exposure our distribution agreement with NanoTech will bring. UltraFlix is undoubtedly a win-win proposition for content owners like us because it helps meet the consumers’ growing demand for 4K content while helping content owners increase their ROI.”
Aaron Taylor, SVP of sales and marketing for NanoTech, added: “Moonshine Kingdom was produced with the highest resolution available today and we're very pleased to offer this amazing cinematic viewing experience to our customers while preserving the original quality.”
People wandering the central hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center did a few double-takes while walking by a booth that saw three tired-looking men in sofas watching a TV with a clock counting down behind them.
The trio is attempting to break a Guinness World Record by watching 87 straight hours of TV, with TiVo being the master of the binge-watching ceremony.
The current record is held by a pair of Californians who watched “The Simpsons” continuously for more than 86 hours in 2012.
“Now, more than ever, we’re seeing a huge range of buzz-worthy television content — from sitcoms, to reality TV, to dramas — and these shows are permeating our culture, becoming a part of daily conversation,” said Tom Rogers, president and CEO of TiVo. “As a result, consumers are increasingly binge-viewing popular TV programming, and this phenomenon has truly gained social acceptance.”
Those interested in tracking the attempt can watch a live stream at dropc.am/p/YsCvYJ.
Jon Kirchner knows he has something unique on his hands.
The CEO of sound technology company DTS showed off the newest features of his company’s Headphone:X offering, which provides virtual surround sound through headphones, giving listeners the impression they’re hearing not only side to side, but above and back as well.
For consumers, Headphone:X now offers a personalization feature, a five-step process that takes into account how any one individual’s hears content. Users access an app, personalize their settings, and then can access that headphone profile for all their devices, via cloud-based storage.
For headphone manufacturers, DTS is offering a new tuning program for Headphone:X, which offers them tools and support to optimize the experience across all product lines.
Skullcandy, Panasonic and Republic of Frends are the first three headphone manufacturers to sign on to the program.
“Despite the amount of engineering a company puts into a headphone’s design, the experience those headphones deliver is never constant between playback devices,” said Jake Hirose, VP of merchandising for Panasonic. “Through the tools offered to us via the DTS Headphone:X tuning program, we are not only able to ensure that the sound they produce is true to how we designed them to sound, but that the sound produced by our headphones is maintained consistently across all DTS Headphone:X-equipped devices.”
Yahoo! showed off its new Internet-connected TV platform, Yahoo Smart TV, which offers interactive viewing, and personalized recommendations from TV, VOD and Web services, along with content related to shows being viewed.
Yahoo! is making the platform available for integration by consumer electronics companies.
Yahoo! also announced it had acquired app technology company Aviate, and will incorporate the company’s app-recognition tech in its Android-based experiences, allowing users to get a more personalized experience with the applications they use.
Lastly, Yahoo! launched its Yahoo News Digest for iPhone and iPod touch; unveiled the digital magazines Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech; and unveiled a new suite of digital advertising products.