UHD-TV Hits the Retail Trail, But There’s a Long Hike Ahead

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By Ken Werner

This holiday season you will be able to buy a UHD-TV — that’s Ultra High Definition, a TV with 3840×2160 pixels (also called Quad Full HD or QFHD or 4K). The suppliers in the North American market will be LG and Sony, and perhaps Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba. All or most of these vendors are apparently using LGD’s 84-inch, 4K panel.

That’s the supply side. On the demand side, who is going to buy a $20,000-plus TV set for which there is no media content in its native format? Microcircuits do exist that upconvert HDTV media to 4K, and it would make sense (lots of sense) for Sony and LG to include such ICs in their offerings.

One selling point for 3D-TV fans is that the high pixel count of UHD-TV sets can compensate for the serious loss in net resolution produced by autostereoscopic (no glasses) 3D-TVs incorporating multiple viewing zones.

Movies in 4K do exist since roughly 90 films have been distributed digitally in 4K, including the forthcoming The Hobbit, Preco’s Wes Donahue said last night at SMPTE’s New York chapter meeting. But, right now, there is no way to get that content to the consumer in 4K. Currently, Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) says it does not have plans to add 4K support to the BRD specification, reported Home Media Magazine’s Chris Tribbey recently.

How quickly is the UHD-TV market likely to grow? Not very, as long as high prices and non-existent media persist. Recently, IHS iSupply forecast that roughly 4,000 UHD-TVs will be shipped this year, growing to a bit over 2 million in 2017 – less than 1 percent of the global LCD-TV market.

Yet, there is far more optimism in the industry for UHD-TV than there is for 3D. The 4K format is already part of the production work flow in cinema production, so content exists now and will continue to grow at a rapid pace. And the growing market for professional 4K equipment will create the foundation on which consumer products can grow.

The problem – and it’s a big one – is delivering that content to the consumers HUD-TV set. That’s a whole other story, one I expect Matt Brennesholtz to address when he talks about professional 4K issues in his Display Daily next week.