Global Market for 4K to be “Niche”

Broadcast Engineering magazine thinks that the global market for 4K and beyond – ultra HD – will remain small into the foreseeable future.

A new NSR Report entitled “UltraHD via Satellite” finds that the nascent market for Ultra HD is expected to start at a modest level in 2015 with just 15 channels being demanded by the global cable TV, IPTV and DTH industries combined. The global satellite Ultra HD market is expected to reach $412 million in 2025 from an $8.2 million revenue base in 2015.

My opinion is that 4K and beyond is being forced on the industry – much the way 3D has been in the last five years – in order to drive equipment sales, not because there is a huge public demand for ever higher quality. Go into the homes of your non-industry family and friends and tell me that quality is their highest concern.

Plus, of course, the practicality of screens large enough, in rooms large enough, for the benefit of that resolution to be even visible, means that any logical thinker would realize the market is quite small. (There are still fewer than 50% of those who own HD sets with an actual HD service.)

Now, there’s nothing wrong with 4K and beyond for production, as long as there is nothing wrong with it. I explored 4K production for Solar Odyssey with the JVC GY-HMQ10 but rejected it because of workflow issues. In that case, the workflow problems outweighed any benefit of PR from a “4K success story” might have brought to the project (or sponsorship of gear).

If your project is absolutely going to have huge value 10 or 15 years from now then 4K production now may make sense. But most of us don’t do projects like that: most projects don’t have a very long life expectancy, and producing in 4K will require higher specification equipment, complex proxy workflows and a lot more storage space.

I agree, the market will be niche, and remain so.

9 thoughts on “Global Market for 4K to be “Niche””

  1. I’m happy with 1080. I “may” go to 2K later this year. But the extra storage space, upgraded computers to handle it, the expense, I don’t see why I should go to 4K. Nothing I do is being shown on movie theater projection screens. So what is the point? I want top quality, but that doesn’t mean I have to go overboard with 4K none of my clients will notice. Right?

  2. From the consumer’s perspective, I think the only way to see what the addressable market would be is to see the percentage of TV purchases over 50-60″. Even among those people, probably half of them sit far enough from the TV that they wouldn’t see perceptible benefit to 4K. But for those who are within that 5-7 foot range, the real “home theatre” market- the benefits are clear. In my home/work theatre, I have a 1080p projector with a 92″ screen. I would definitely benefit.

    From a production standpoint you’re completely correct. Most work has a short life cycle, especially in corporate or commercial. In those instances you work to a specific delivery resolution. But for TV and especially film, I think people might be unintentionally opting themselves out of future revenue if they don’t at least acquire in 4K, and if possible, post in 4K. Like it or not, the lifetime for technology is getting shorter, not longer.

    The largest downward pressure on 4K adoption is the impact the extra resolution will have on delivery via streaming services. But with h.265 in the near term, along with (slowly) increasing delivery speeds and bandwidth caps, I don’t think the horizon is as far away as some might think.

    I think we also need to take rationality somewhat out of the equation. When Apple introduced the iPhone4 with it’s Retina screen, it was a great leap forward. But now only 3 years later phones are competing in the numbers game for dpi resolutions on Phones that likewise go well past our ability to discern the benefit. But some people like stats. So we end up with a 5″ phone with a 1080p display. It’s crazy, but that’s competitive marketing…

  3. Not much different than HD, IMO. HD floundered for years until the perfect storm of technology, government mandated switch to digital b’casting and TV makers halting SD TV production finally go the ball rolling (albeit slowly) in the U.S. And how many people buy a 1080p TV because the number is bigger even though they can’t tell the difference between that and a 720p set? Perceived improvement (as opposed to actual improvement) and keeping up with the Jones’ is about all a typical American consumer needs in order to lay down money for more megapixels, more GHz or more horsepower.

    4K is coming and it will arrive as it doesn’t have the same problems 3D does. It won’t get here today nor tomorrow but in 5yrs or so I think 4K via IP delivery will be normal if for no other reason than companies will just stop making non-4K TVs and cameras.

  4. Shooting 3K for HD seems the most sensible. You can reframing options, but not using the full frame size of some cameras gives you better frame rate options.

    Maybe the future of distribution will be 1080pV. Variable frame rates within the same video (depending on the nature of the shot).

  5. I’m skeptical that most people who currently have HD will want to “upgrade” to 4K. Some say it’s just like the HD to SD transition, but I think that’s discounting a very important form factor. SD TVs were generally big square box CRT, and HDs are sexy flat panel widescreens – that makes a huge difference. What are 4k? Sexy flat panel wide screens – not much difference. And as far as impressing your friends?

    Especially with the inevitable compression that will be necessary, it’s not going to look significantly better. At the next poker party, the guy will show of his 4K screen, and he’ll have to explain how there’s more pixels, because most people won’t notice the difference, and then his friends would say, “Dude – you paid $10k for that? That’s stupid!”

    I’d be freaking embarrassed to show a 4KTV to my friends…

  6. Having looked at 4K video on a pretty large screen recently, I would have to say it is pretty stunningly better than 1080P. I admit that I was only a few feet from it, but there were clear visual aspects that I think will show up at six to 10 feet.

    Retina displays and the like are adjusting us quickly to an expectation of the disappearance of any visibility of pixels, and in displays looking more like printed material than ever. In some ways this is more important for looking at text, but put a good quality 40″ print next to a 60″ HD TV and tell me you don’t see a difference. Skin, hair, and texture are vastly more detailed, and the human eye can pick it up quite easily. We are quite sensitive to the detail of the texture of the threads of a sweater, and the pixelation effects of 1080P are pretty obvious.

    What I noticed in watching the 4K video was not its resolution but its utter smoothness. That’s what Apple started getting us used to, and it is a subtle visual aspect that I have already noticed 1080P doesn’t really deliver. With current HD, you realize how much better the resolution is versus what preceded it, but you still see it.

    I don’t know when 4K will take over, or even have more than demoware content, but I want it. Heck, most of my photography gets displayed on my 1080P TV rather than filling my house with a ridiculously small fraction of my image collection. I can assure you that it would look vastly better on a 4K set.

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