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4K Synergy Offers Refreshing Change

8 Jan, 2015 By: Thomas K. Arnold

During a Digital Hollywood panel on which I participated, about the future prospects of OTT, the moderator asked each us how this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was different from past years’ events.

I was up first, but my prognosis easily rattled off my tongue: If you look at this year’s spotlight attraction, 4K Ultra-HD, there’s more cohesion and unity, and a greater focus on the whole consumer experience, than there’s been in years.

And that explains why studio executives are so optimistic about the future of home entertainment, despite DEG numbers that show disc sales fell 11% in 2014 and the continued dominance of subscription streaming in the electronic distribution sector of the business.

Everything seems to be coming together for 4K, and one reason is that consumer electronics companies are working not just on one aspect of the new technology but on the whole enchilada. It’s not just about a better picture, it’s about partnerships with content providers — a concerted outreach to make 4K available on all devices, from the most elaborate home-theater TVs to tablets and smartphones — and an all-out effort to make the 4K viewing experience quick and easy, despite the much-bigger size of the files and greater bandwidth requirements.

Everyone’s working together on home entertainment’s “Next Big Thing” — and I honestly feel we’ve learned a lot from past mistakes, from the bruising format war that dirtied the launch of high-definition discs to the disaster that was 3D. The year, not so long ago, when 3D was the show floor rage, all I remember is a plethora of incompatible formats — including those horrid Toshiba TVs with frames that reminded me of dog scratch collars — and mass confusion about eyewear. And then there was that nasty little problem about consumers maybe not wanting to watch everything in 3D, which no one seemed to have taken into account.

With 4K, it’s full speed ahead — and the alluring consumer promise to finally be able to replicate the movie-theater experience in their own home appears to be resonating. I was up in Arcata a week ago, renting an apartment for my oldest son, Justin, who attends Humboldt State University, and ran into a retired ranch hand who now works behind the counter at the Days Inn (yes, I’m living the life).

We got to talking, and when he found out I was in the entertainment business he just had to tell me how excited he was to get a 4K TV. “My friend has one, and it’s like a whole new world,” he said. “It’s a completely different viewing experience — much more so than Blu-ray over DVD.”
That’s not Mike Dunn or one of our other industry thought leaders talking. That’s Rich the ranch hand, your everyday, average Joe.

This year’s CES, much more so than past shows, was truly an invigorating, enriching experience. I left the show Thursday morning with the feeling that our business is back on track, and that we’ve not only developed a great new product that consumers genuinely will want, but we’re also bringing it to market in the right way.

It’s all about the consumer experience, you see. And if we keep that notion at the top of our minds and let everything we do be guided by it, I honestly believe we are destined to succeed.

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