UHD September - Page 22

uhd2808_news 01/09/2015 11:58 Page 8 Who will join the 4K rush? Chris Forrester takes a look at the history of HDTV services and wonders whether lessons can be learned for 4K/UHD. he waiting is déjà vu all over again. We now know that satellite operator SES has reserved five channels for 4K/UHD launches. We know that Sky Deutschland has reserved 4K capacity. We know that SES has signed up a German shopping channel (pearl.tv) for transmission in 4K. We know that a major new general entertainment channel will launch at MIPCOM in October complete with a diverse and exciting range of 4K programming with some serious cash behind what they claim is a new concept in terms of a channel. We understand it will be carried on three important satellite platforms, including SES. And we know that Canal Plus is testing 4K. This suggests that SES’s initial five channels are now more or less identified. This is all good news. But what else can viewers expect to watch on their glorious new 4KUHD displays? To help compile this list we went back to those similarly crazy days (and T programming in this – then – new format. But even then the public were enthusiastic. By November 2003, the prices for 27” flat-panel HDTV sets had “tumbled” to “just” $900. In October 2003 a new all-satellite, all-HDTV service had started from Rainbow Media over the US, called ‘Voom’, which sadly went bust a year or so later, but as for everything else, doesn’t today’s anxieties over Ultra-HD sound a little like what Yogi Berra might say as “It’s déjà vu all over again”. Also in 2003, we talked about consumers buying high-end Plasma displays (at up to $6,000 each), and predicting that 2004 could see sales in Europe topping 400,000 such units. Again, this compares with the current situation where UHD display sales this year in Europe’s three major markets (Germany, France and the UK) will likely top 800,000 units, and perhaps as many as 1 million in each. In 2003, Tandberg Television's then COO Eric Cooney, explained that it could – in 2003 – comfortably handle MPEG-2 HDTV at 10-12 Mb/s, compared with the expected 20-40 Mb ranges just a few years ago, and there are other improvements in the offing. “In practical terms what we are saying is that a satellite transponder can now comfortably carry three HD signals. A viewer with a suitable set or set-top box would immediately notice a significant What else can viewers expect to watch on their glorious new 4KUHD displays? months) of speculation in preHDTV, of 2002 when some people were describing highdefinition TV as “the big yawn” with – it was claimed – nobody really interested in making 22 EUROMEDIA UHD Special improvement in picture quality.” Given that only a few years ago broadcasters were paying small fortunes for analogue transponder capacity (and still do for Germany coverage), then carrying three or four HD channels on one 36 MHz transponder is not so expensive, always provided there was an audience out there. Back in the here and now, we know that there’s an audience for Ultra-HD. The viewing public are buying high-end sets at an impressive rate, despite some anxieties that these early models will not deliver ‘true’ 4K. Certainly only a few models will be upgradable to handle High Dynamic Range, let alone 100/120 fps and the muchpraised Wider Colour Gamut that we will learn more about at IBC next month. But there are the first shoots of broadcasting optimism now emerging, besides the five channels anticipated from SES. First up, by the end of this year, consumers can start watching 4K Blu-ray material on newly available Blu-ray players. It is also widely announced that Netflix will widen its 4K offerings and Amazon Prime is investing millions in new streamed programming, much of which is in 4K. Viewers can only hope that the much-trailed decision from Amazon to back a new very high profile Top Geartype motoring show will be made in 4K. Meanwhile, both Ne