Industry Should Simplify UHD Awareness by Focusing on 4K Disc20 Nov, 2017 By: Thomas K. Arnold
As we get ready to shift gears from 2017 into 2018, we’re keeping one eye on digital sales and the other on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc sales, both growth industries with lots of potential.
Movies Anywhere — to which I am hopelessly addicted, by the way — could be just what the doctor ordered to finally boost digital sales beyond niche-business status.
Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, meanwhile, should be an easy sell to the legions of new 4K TV owners. 4K TV sales are soaring, and yet there’s a conspicuous lack of available content, particularly on the ownership side. New data from Futuresource Consulting projects 35% of global TV sales in 2017 will be 4K UHD … [but 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.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m still having trouble streaming regular HD. Ultra HD? Forget about it.
Compounding this inability to get UHD content is the fact that digital UHD movie sales can be a challenge, as well, with iTunes, still the biggest online seller of music and movies (with Amazon and Comcast nipping at its heels), apparently riding this one out.
According to the MacRumors website, “Apple has updated its iTunes Store on iOS devices and the Apple TV with plenty of 4K movies ahead of the launch of the Apple TV 4K, but has made clear in a recent support document that 4K content from Apple can be streamed, but not downloaded directly on a device. According to Apple, customers can download a local copy of an HD movie … but 4K movies are not available for download and thus can't be watched without an Internet connection. … That means customers who have had their previously purchased iTunes movies upgraded from HD to 4K at no cost can stream those movies in 4K, but can only download HD versions. Newly purchased content is also restricted from download.”
An Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player, and a stack of discs, seems the perfect solution to this dilemma.
And yet Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc sales face their own set of challenges. According to the Futuresource report, high dynamic range (HDR), the enhanced visual technology that is one of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc’s key selling points, “remains largely lost on consumers.”
According to Futuresource, the HDR concept is more difficult to relay to consumers than the more straightforward resolution improvements offered by simple 4K, even as those familiar with the technologies peg HDR as the main advantage that 4K has in elevating image quality above conventional high-definition. Without a universally accepted standard, the industry risks devaluing the HDR brand, as there are many poor representations of HDR that fail to demonstrate its effectiveness by offering little to no discernible improvement in image quality.
So what’s the solution? Promote and market the hell out of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc! Minimize the technical jargon and adopt something that’s easier and simpler for the average Joe to comprehend. Stop trying to explain HDR and instead play up how much closer Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc brings us to the theatrical experience: “You’ll think you’re at the movies, except there’s no annoying guy two rows back who’s constantly yelling at the screen.”
As consumers move more and more into the digital space, the physical disc will continue to serve as a bridge, which is why the combo pack concept works well — especially if you can give consumers a trilogy of value: an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, a regular Blu-ray Disc and a digital code.
But just as importantly, the disc remains the optimum viewing platform, with a far better picture than even the best streamed UHD movie — if your system can even handle it.
All we, as an industry, have to do now is figure out how to get this point across to the consumer.