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UHD Alliance Unveils New Premium Specs, Logo

4 Jan, 2016 By: Thomas K. Arnold

LAS VEGAS — The drive to get consumers to adopt Ultra HD continues to gather support, as studios and consumer electronics manufacturers gear up for what they maintain is a vastly improved viewing experience from high-definition.

A week after Warner Bros. became the third major studio to promise 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc product, beginning early this year, the UHD Alliance (UHDA) unveiled a new logo to identify to consumers devices, content and services capable of delivering the premium viewing experience.

The UHDA also announced the start of licensing of its Ultra HD Premium logo.

Ultra HD is the next-generation viewing format that features four times the resolution of HD and includes high dynamic range (HDR), which produces brilliant highlights, vibrant colors and greater contrast on compatible displays.

Sales of Ultra HD TVs, which observers say are hitting the market at a faster pace than HDTVs did, were up 494% in the third quarter on 2015, with nearly 2 million sets sold year to date in the United States alone, according to data from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Research firm IHS Technology says annual worldwide shipments of Ultra HD TVs are expected to grow by nearly 719% over the next several years, from nearly 12 million in 2014 to nearly 96 million in 2019, with over 300 million in use by the end of 2019.

During a panel discussion after a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 4, Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, predicted "full household penetration" within 10 years. He said that a year ago, “we saw a side-by-side comparison of 4K UHD with HDR versus our current Blu-ray and we saw that it was a full step up in consumer experience. It was mind blowing.”

Dunn was joined on the panel by Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; and Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Their presence signified the strong support among the content community for Ultra HD, which sees the new format as a way to both invigorate Blu-ray Disc sales and push consumers toward buying movies electronically.

Singh said development of the logo and specifications is important "because we have to be careful not to confuse the consumer." He said indications are the transition will be smoother than the introduction nearly 10 years ago of Blu-ray Disc, whose launch was marred by a brief format war with HD DVD.

Singh added that the change is very similar to the difference between standard definition and high definition. “This is truly an immersive consumer experience, where the consumer can actually see the quality difference,” he said. “It’s the first time we have a medium at home where we can provide the range that the 35 millimeter film provides and show a film the way that the creator actually thought of it, so it’s a unique consumer experience. This represents a quality standard that is so different and so dramatic that I think in the fight for consumers, where you have so much free stuff, content like this will really lead to us getting a larger share.”

Sanders echoed Dunn’s sentiments about the growth potential of Ultra HD, saying, "it's going to become ubiquitous.” He added, “The exciting thing about this is that we are going to be first — there is not a lot of broadcast out there. We think there could be over a billion dollars in consumer spend by 2019.”

He said Ultra HD content will be delivered into consumer homes through a mix of digital and physical, with digital ultimately bigger but physical — the Blu-ray Disc — the primary entry point for consumers.

He said Warner should have 60 titles out this year, digital and physical, with "bigger materiality" in fourth quarter.

Dunn said Fox will release at least 35 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs in 2016.

All four panelists stressed the importance of presenting a unified front to consumers, and that marketing and education will be key. Sanders said quality in-store demonstrations, with side-by-side comparisons, will be critical.

Bonner said he is encouraged by the unity among content owners and consumer electronics manufacturers, a sharp contrast to the divide that marked the introduction of Blu-ray Disc.

“It will be really important for studios, consumer electronics companies [and others] to come together and collaborate on marketing and education,” he said.

The UHDA was founded in January 2015 and has since has grown to more than 35 companies. UHDA board members include executives from Dolby Laboratories, LG Electronics, Netflix, Panasonic Corp., Samsung Electronics, Sony Corp., Technicolor, The Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Developed through the collaborative efforts of top movie studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies, the Ultra HD Premium specifications reflect not just industry expertise but also significant input from consumer testing.

The UHDA said its Ultra HD Premium logo “is reserved for products and services that comply with performance metrics for resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), peak luminance, black levels and wide color gamut among others.”

“The diverse group of UHDA companies agreed that to realize the full potential of Ultra HD the specs need to go beyond resolution and address enhancements like HDR, expanded color and ultimately even immersive audio. Consumer testing confirmed this,” said UHDA president Hanno Basse of 20th Century Fox.

“The reason the UHD Alliance was formed was we all felt that Ultra HD has a lot of future and has all the hallmarks to become the new next-generation audio visual format. But we felt it wasn’t really well-defined yet as to what we mean when we say Ultra HD, what we mean when we say next-generation audio visual experience.”

Additional reporting by Stephanie Prange.

(L-R): The UHD Alliance CES panel included Warner Bros. president of worldwide home entertainment distribution Ron Sanders, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment worldwide president Mike Dunn, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Man Jit Singh and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment EVP of digital distribution Michael Bonner at CES in Las Vegas.


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