4K Carries the Day at CES6 Jan, 2015 By: Chris Tribbey
LAS VEGAS — Wearables, robotics, smart home technology and the Internet of Things will all make noise when the doors open at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Jan. 6.
But as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, the big news has already been announced: 4K Ultra-High-Def (UHD). Consumer electronics companies and Hollywood studios alike have already made it clear that 4K will be a major focus for 2015, with a slew of UHD announcements coming before CES even began.
“4K UHD is our future, and the future is now,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). “Consumers recognize that 4K Ultra-HD is the next step forward in a long line of outstanding high-definition televisions and displays. With new next-gen technologies and features being added by manufacturers that help improve the already outstanding picture quality and viewing experience, 4K UHD is set to become the next great success story in television technology.”
Shipments of 4K sets are expected to hit more than 23.3 million worldwide in 2015, according to research firm GfK, and according to CEA, a third of consumers said they’re considering purchasing a UHD TV between now and 2018. More than 25% of consumers told CEA that 4K was one of the top features they’re looking for in a new flatscreen.
Underscoring the importance the industry is putting on 4K was the Jan. 5 announcement that Hollywood studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, post-production and technology companies, and content distributors had launched a new UHD Alliance. The group’s goal is to establish standards for 4K content across all devices, tackling everything from 4K and higher resolutions and high dynamic range, to wider color gamut and immersive 3D audio.
“These technologies allow us to utilize a much broader palette to tell our stories while providing viewers with true-to-life colors, superior contrast and premium picture quality,” said Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “Working with a wide industry consortium is the best way to deliver these experiences within premium entertainment.”
DirecTV, Dolby, LG Electronics, Netflix, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Technicolor, Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner are the companies behind the alliance.
“The innovative advancements and quality improvements with TVs are evolving rapidly, as seen throughout CES,” said Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “The UHD Alliance will benefit consumers by identifying products and content that will give the true UHD experience.”
Hyunsuk Kim, president of Samsung’s Visual Display Business, added: “As the UHD ecosystem continues to evolve, we are strengthening our commitment to high-quality UHD content and devices. The Alliance will encourage the development of high-quality UHD content while distinguishing TVs that provide the most premium UHD viewing experience.”
Brian Markwalter, CEA’s SVP of research and standards, said the coalition could be just the push Hollywood needs to make 4K work across devices, and to advance consumer acceptance of the technology.
“Close coordination among key stakeholders will be a key to 4K UHD’s long-term success,” he said. “CEA looks forward to working closely with this new coalition and with all engaged in creating standards for this exciting new technology by leveraging CEA’s vast experience and expertise in standards development.”
Practically every entertainment stakeholder had a 4K announcement the day before CES began: Dish Network announced it would be the first pay-TV provider to off a 4K UHD set-top box. Roku announced it was working with hardware companies and Netflix to offer 4K content. Other pre-CES 4K announcements included:
• Panasonic announced a slew of new UHD TVs for the year, but stole the headlines with the announcement of a prototype 4K Blu-ray Disc player, capable of reproducing 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixel) video, almost a year before the Blu-ray Disc Association is expected to announce a 4K standard for Blu-ray.
“This marks a major advance in picture quality over current Blu-ray Disc players, and paves the way towards allowing consumers to enjoy the crisp, true-to-life quality of amazing 4K Ultra HD content in their own homes,” the company said.
• Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Storm and The Lego Movie will be some of the studio’s titles to be mastered in 4K using Dolby Vision this year, the companies announced.
Dolby Vision is an imaging technology that aims to offer “the filmmaker’s creative intent via an expanded color palette, enhanced dynamic range, and dramatically increased contrast ratio,” according to Curt Behlmer, SVP of content solutions and industry relations for Dolby Labs.
“By leveraging Dolby Vision to unlock artistic intent in a completely new way, we are able to provide home audiences around the world with dramatically enhanced picture quality that fully engages their senses and brings Warner Bros. movies to life in their living room,” said Jim Wuthrich, president of the Americas for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
• Sharp unveiled a 2015 Aquos-branded UHD TV lineup with seven screen sizes, ranging from 43 inches to 80 inches, with its largest model actually delivering a resolution “167% greater … than traditional 4K UHD,” the company said.
“Sharp’s display technologies shape the TV industry,” said Jim Sanduski, president of Sharp Electronics America. “Our 2015 Aquos 4K UHD TV line delivers our finest picture quality, most beautiful designs and advanced Smart TV features.”
• Samsung’s 2015 UHD sets will allow consumers to stream 4K movies and TV shows from Amazon, Comcast, DirecTV, M-Go and Netflix, and the company has enabled a new UHD movie download service, utilizing its existing UHD Video Pack, thanks to its partnership with M-Go, the transactional VOD joint venture between Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation. The download service relies on the SCSA (Secure Content Storage Association) standard.
“Our innovative heritage and spirit continue to push the boundaries of the home entertainment experience to new possibilities,” said H.S. Kim, president of the visual display business at Samsung Electronics. “Regardless of the content source, Samsung provides the leading picture in the industry and will continue to do so with our UHD TVs. Consumers can trust that we are more committed than ever to consistently deliver a superior home entertainment experience for years to come.”
• Along with an emphasis on OLED (organic light-emitting diode) 4K TVs (with seven new screens, including curved and flat sets), LG Electronics shared it would offer a GoPro channel app with 4K content, and will offer access to DirecTVs 4K VOD service as well.
“LG is driving innovation by making this superb TV technology available to more consumers,” said In-kyu Lee, SVP and head of the TV and monitor division at LG Electronics. “LG believes this is where the future of television is headed and we’re going to continue developing and expanding our OLED offerings until it becomes a viable option for all consumers.”
• China’s TCL Multimedia — the world’s third largest TV manufacturer — announced several 4K sets, including the 4K Ultra-HD TCL Roku TV, a 110-inch 4K Ultra HD curved TV, and a new 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Quantum Dot TV with Color IQ technology.
There was also plenty of non-UHD news coming out of Las Vegas before CES opened its doors:
Samsung Expands Milk Entertainment Services
Samsung Milk Music and Milk Video — a set of proprietary streaming services — are expanding to the 2015 line-up of Samsung Internet-connected TVs, as well as online.
Samsung’s Milk Music TV app is available now, while Samsung Milk Video TV app will be available this spring, with Milk Music also available via a Web player this quarter. Milk Video, launched in November, is a personalized video discovery service that collects and shares popular online videos.
“Samsung is dedicated to delivering impassioned, connected experiences through content and services across devices, including smartphones, tablets and smart TVs,” said John Pleasants, executive vice president, Samsung Media Solutions Center America. “We are excited to bring the music and video experience to even more platforms for our customers to enjoy, and offer customers a glimpse at what’s possible in the brand new realm of immersive mobile video and virtual reality.”
Samsung also announced the launch of Milk VR, a virtual reality service that offers full 360-degree videos.
Panasonic Goes With Firefox
Panasonic announced it was collaborating with Mozilla to bring the Firefox OS to its new line-up of Internet-connected TVs, including the CX850, CX800, CX650, and CX600 series.
The user interface is designed to allow Panasonic owners to access preferred content and apps from other connected devices, and give developers a platform to create new services.
“Firefox OS powering everything from smartphones to a new category of devices like TVs and streaming devices proves the flexibility and power of the Web as the platform,” said Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal. “We're excited about the collaboration with Panasonic because it offers consumer and developers a customized and easy to use way to take their Firefox Web experience across devices.”
TiVo Launches OnePass
The idea behind TiVo OnePass — an all-access solution available on TV or via TiVo mobile apps — is to allow consumers to track every episode of a TV series, regardless of the source (live, recorded, VOD or streaming), according to Jim Denney, VP of product marketing at TiVo.
TiVo OnePass organizes episodes of a viewer’s favorite shows by season, and when an episode isn’t available to be recorded, the service will direct users to VOD or streaming services.
“As we continue to see exponential growth in binge watching and the nearly ubiquitous presence of OTT video subscription services alongside traditional cable, TiVo continues to fulfill our mission to deliver the best entertainment experience for viewers,” Denney said. “With OnePass, we can shorten the time to get users to the content to which they subscribe much easier than needing to search individual services.”
TiVo OnePass will be available on TiVo Roamio and TiVo Mini devices in February.
PlayStation Now Launches Subscription Program
Sony Computer Entertainment America announced it was launching a subscription service for its PlayStation Now gaming service, offering unlimited access to more than 100 games for $20 a month, or $45 for three months.
“We know that there are many PlayStation 4 owners who never owned a PlayStation 3 or had a chance to play some of the great games it offered, and this subscription provides an easy way to catch up on games you may have missed,” Peter Jamshidi, director of marketing for PlayStation Now, wrote in a blog post.
SCSA is offering a free seven-day trial to the subscription program when it launches this month.