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4K Content Front and Center at CES

28 Dec, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

If 2014 was 4K Ultra High-Def’s (UHD) coming out party at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), 2015 could be the year 4K content makes a big splash at the annual tech show.

Michael Gorman, editor in chief of online tech news service Engadget, said CES attendees should expect major announcements around 4K content and distribution, with wearables and “Internet of things” tech also becoming headliners at the show.

“4K is going to continue to be a major theme in home entertainment this year, along with the continued evolution of smart TV platforms,” he said. “4K technology is becoming more widely available and affordable, but it's still early days; and there's still a limited amount of 4K content to be had.”

All eyes will be on Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and the other major consumer electronics companies Jan. 5 when they unveil their latest technologies to the press. 4K is expected to be a huge part of the news from most major manufacturers.

On Jan. 7, Tim Alessi, director of new product development for LG Electronics will be part of a CES discussion about whether or not 2015 is the year 4K content really takes off, with streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon already getting a head start. And with a 4K Blu-ray Disc spec still a year away, it will be streaming services that have to take the lead, according to Todd Collart, GM of Deluxe Digital Distribution.

“I think 2015 is going to be the year you see 4K services really take off, with better video compression and consumers adopting the technology,” he said, adding that major cable 4K announcements could come before CES kicks off next month.

Indeed, Amazon has just begun streaming select TV shows, movies and specials in 4K resolution for Prime Instant Video members at no additional charge. The free value-add contrasts with Netflix’s decision to charge a $3 monthly surcharge for subscribers opting for 4K content.

Prime members with a compatible 4KTV can now watch such programs as Amazon original series “Alpha House” and “Transparent”; the movies Funny Girl, Philadelphia and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and musical performance Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek LIVE! in 4K resolution, which is four-times the clarity of 1080p. More programming will be available for streaming in Ultra-HD later in 2014 and in 2015.

Amazon Instant Video also is selling a selection of movies (priced from $19.99) in 4K resolution.

“We want to deliver the best entertainment experience, and offering Ultra-HD movies and TV shows raises the bar on quality and innovation that customers have come to expect from Amazon,” Michael Paull, VP of Amazon Digital Video, said in a statement.

More 4K happenings take place on the final day of CES, Jan. 8, when Chris Fetner, director of media engineering and partnerships for Netflix; Phil McKinney, president and CEO of CableLabs; and Stephan Heimbecher, head of innovations and standards for Sky Deutschland, take part in the panel 4K UHD: The Big Picture.

Outside of 4K, there’s a ton on tap at CES for the home entertainment industry. The 2015 CES will see the introduction of C Space at Aria, a networking hub with conferences, meetings, exhibits and events exclusively for executives from the entertainment, marketing, ad, media and content industries.

“It’s a brand new space for us this year, with targeted events and parties for the content industry,” said Karen Chupka, SVP of corporate business strategy for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). “We created C Space at Aria to elevate how content, creativity, technology and the consumer come together at the 2015 CES.”

On Jan. 5, Digital Hollywood will host several content panels, including Big Media and Viral Experiences: Creativity Challenges, Merging Content with New Technologies, Premium Advertising: Monetizing the Global Mobile Universe, Monetizing Entertainment Programming Across Platforms, Social Advertising: Driving Brand Awareness and Social Television: The 2nd Screen Phenomenon.

Other content-heavy panels Jan. 5 at CES include Multichannel Networks and the YouTube Phenomenon, Multi-Screen Strategies for Connected TV Technology and Content, Hollywood and Media: The Multiplatform Brand, Transforming Contextual Advertising and Media Platform Relationships, Big Data Revolution for Digital Marketing and YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming. Jan. 6 features panels on The Future of TV: From Primetime to Multi-Platforms, Video Anytime Anywhere: Understanding the Value Proposition, and Hollywood and the Digital Consumer: The Entertainment Experience.

Variety’s Entertainment Summit Jan. 7 features several content-centric panels, including The Future of Multi-Platform Entertainment (featuring executives from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Bros. Animation, ABC and Microsoft), The Art and Science of Driving the Connected Audience (with executives from Google, Facebook and Ernst & Young), Dollars and Sense: The Business of Digital Entertainment (with executives from Maker Studios, BET Networks and VICE Media), and Masters of Trailblazing Content (with the creator of “Smallville” and “One Tree Hill,” and representatives from Oculus Rift, Walt Disney Animation and Lionsgate).

On Jan. 7, executives from Bosch, Cisco and Comcast will participate in the Fast Innovation: Disrupt or be Disrupted keynote panel, discussing the evolution of the connections between people, data and innovation as enabled by the Internet of Everything. Other keynoters include CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves and Samsung Electronics’ president and CEO Boo-Keun Yoon. Moonves will deliver his keynote presentation Jan. 7.

Executives from Condé Nast, Disney, Fox, Google and McDonald’s will be part of the Brand Matters keynote panel Jan. 7, when they’ll discuss how the evolution of hardware and software has enabled more dynamic content creation and distribution.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler and U.S. Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez will also be featured speakers at CES Jan. 7.

A Jan. 8 panel will see the head of virtual reality company Jaunt and the creative director of the digital entertainment studio Three One Zero discuss Virtual Reality Today and Tomorrow, and whether virtual reality movies have a place in home entertainment.

On the mobile entertainment side, executives from Electrolux, General Motors, Philips and Qualcomm will take part in a panel discussion Jan. 6, discussing how mobile has changed our definitions of categories such as smart phones, wearables, automotive and healthcare.

“Wireless and mobile devices are changing how we live, play and work as global ownership and usage of smartphones and tablets continues to grow,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA.

Jan. 5 will see the half day 2nd Screen Summit at CES, with Marc DeBevoise, EVP and GM of entertainment, news and sports for CBS Interactive, and Kevin Murphy, executive producer, co-creator and showrunner for SyFy’s “Defiance,” among the keynote speakers.

“We’re going to focus on how people are successfully using the second screen, both as an audience building tool and as a way to involve brands in the process,” said Alan Wolk, chairman of the 2nd Screen Society. “I think that smart content and using second-screen devices to access data is the opportunity for this segment. It will allow us to know our audiences better and make better decisions as a result.”

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will host its annual invite-only party Jan. 6.

Erik Gruenwedel contributed to this report

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