A few weeks ago if you would’ve asked my opinion about 4k I would’ve said that it’ll stay mainly in very hi-end acquisition but that’s about it for the foreseeable future. HD as we know it was nearly a decade in the making and 1080p60 is still a rare bird let alone 4k.
That was until CES 2012 rolled around.
First off, at CES this year multiple consumer electronics companies showed off 4k displays that looked more showroom ready than prototypes wheeled out of a lab. Second, Sony revealed a Blu-ray player that upscaled to 4k. Finally, JVC released a prosumer 4k camera for $5,000. JVC, if you may remember, was the first to get an HD prosumer camera out the door as well. That’s when it dawned on me. Consumer electronics makers need the next ‘it’ thing to keep selling gadgets and 3D, still mired by problems, isn’t catching on like they had hoped. I don’t think they’ll be abandoning 3D efforts quite yet, but they seem to be priming the pump for 4k.
I think 4k will come to be in part the same way that HD came to be. Consumer electronics companies will just start making 4k gadgets and start phasing out HD gadgets. They phased out SD to force people into HD and I don’t see why they wouldn’t pull the same trick again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is going to happen overnight but I think in another 5 years or so 4k will be fairly common.
Unlike the move from SD to HD (which was also burdened by the move from analog to digital) the move to 4k won’t have to rely on figuring out a way to cram 4k signals into devices that were originally designed to carry analog SD signals (like communications satellites in space). IPTV, be it YouTube, Netflix or Hulu, is growing and only will continue to grow. In 2005 YouTube launched with sub-SD quality videos, by 2008 it supported 1080p and in 2010 it supported 4k. Imagine where we could be in 2017. I mean, the broadband speeds of 10yrs ago are on par with 3G cellular speeds of today.
Of course there’s no certainty that broadband speeds will keep increasing like they have and the manufacturing costs of a 4k screen will have to come down substantially to hit a mainstream consumer price but I feel like this is going to happen. In labs four layer Blu-ray discs have been created that have a capacity of 100gigs. I’m sure those are a far cry away from being sold to the public at a cost effective price but the proof of concept is there.
Live sports was one of the big factors in HD adoption ( I’m not a pixel-peeper but even I get excited about sports in OTA HD) and that’s certainly a place that IPTV could struggle. Broadcast distribution rights for major league sports is a multibillion dollar investment and traditional distributors that have ponied up the cash aren’t going to want to share which means we will have to rely on the broadcasters themselves to stream their own games. NBC has been streaming its Sunday Night NFL game for a couple of years now and just recently streamed the Super Bowl to 2.1 million viewers. Hopefully others take notice and we start seeing more simulcasts on the internet.
Overall, I don’t think broadcast is dead I just think the internet will become more and more of a viable alternative as time passes on.