Report: Distribution Channels Not Matching 4K Content Availability14 Nov, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel
A dearth of distribution channels for 4K content continues to be a challenge for the higher-resolution format despite increasing sales of 4K TVs, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.
The London-based research firm projects 35% of global TV sales in 2017 will be 4K UHD, taking the worldwide household penetration of 4K UHD TVs to 8%, as prices fall and larger screen sizes proliferate.
Meanwhile, the report said a lack of 4K-compatible broadcasts and network programming is limiting 4K content distribution to subscription streaming video services such as Netflix, Apple, Google and Amazon Prime Video.
“Despite a significant quantity of content being shot, produced and stored in 4K, only a small proportion of that is readily available to consumers," analyst Tristan Veale said in a statement.
Veale contends the content gap will continue to widen as demand for the higher-quality hardware outstrips a willingness to pay for UHD content.
The report finds that broadcasters must invest at multiple points, with this investment currently not being matched by the financial return from customers. As such, the upgrades and content acquisition are a challenging justification for many operators that are seeing increasingly suppressed margins.
“This gap [between content and consumer adoption] will likely continue to widen until broadcasted UHD becomes more mainstream,” he said.
In addition, high dynamic range (HDR), the enhanced visual technology, remains largely lost on consumers. Futuresource contends HDR is a more difficult consumer message to convey than the improved resolution of 4K, despite many experts in 4K video contending that HDR is the true selling point of the UHD format that truly elevates the image above typical HD.
The industry is in danger of devaluing the term with no universally accepted definition of how much better HDR is than standard dynamic range. As such, there are many poor implementations in the market that are branded as HDR, but with little discernible improvement, according to Futuresource.
Separately, the 4K UHD streaming market continues to grow, with UHD devices from Roku, Amazon and Apple helping propel worldwide 4K UHD shipments to account for 36% of all media streaming devices sold in 2017.
Unlike broadcasters, SVOD services don't face the same interoperability technical issues delivering 4K content. Netflix has more than 1,000 hours of UHD content. Apple's offer of 4K UHD movies at the same price as HD on iTunes prompted Amazon and Google to lower their price on 4K UHD titles.
“UHD is increasingly standard across … SVOD services, with many offering UHD content for no extra charge,” Veale said. “As such, continued growth of available 4K content on these platforms is expected.”