News & Events

Why you don’t need a 4K TV, just yet.

August 07th, 2015

It was 2012 when major consumer electronics manufacturers introduced UHD TVs. Only 3 years later, during this years CES, Samsung presented an 8K glasses-less 3D TV that just reminded us how hard it’s been for the content creators and ISP providers to cope with UHD content.

With the official release of Windows 10 last week, news outlets have been buzzing about how in less than 3 days after launching; Windows 10 reached a record .39 percent market share.

Windows 10 comes with native support of HEVC, the codec replacing the widely available H.264 compression standard. The decision by Microsoft to support HEVC probably comes to strengthen the ecosystem around PlayReady and the tendency of the market to move UHD content towards the OTT industry.

This might be great news for HEVC and premium content providers who had been waiting for the codec to reach the mainstream; so they can maximize their ROI over their highly valued UHD content.

The high availability of HEVC nonetheless won’t have a strong impact in the premium content market until the next generation of UHD TV sets reach a high number of users. For the early adopters of UHD TVs, the current offer of 4K content that you get at home doesn’t really make much difference if compared with content streamed at 1080p.

When Netflix released “House of Cards” in 4K resolution it also declared that a connection speed of 15 Mbps for streaming it was needed. If you consider that the world average is 3.8 Mbps – with only South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong with an average above 15 Mbps – then UHD for the masses is still pretty far from the general adoption.

In the short term, Google’s VP9 which replaced the H.264 codec for YouTube’s HTML 5 Player back in 2013, has already achieved over 25 billion hours of video streaming on YouTube, not surprisingly having a greater impact with SD and HD than UHD resolutions.

According to Google, the VP9 codec can reduce bandwidth consumption by up to 35%, this is a big change for developing countries like Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia – all with a population of over 100 million – which saw an increase of around 40% upgrading from low definition to standard and high definition.

Ultimately we will have plenty of HEVC and VP9 codecs during the coming years, not necessarily as competitors but as two similar algorithms ruling different but highly related platforms.

In any case, the new generation of codecs are helping content providers achieve higher ROI over their down-sampled HD content, while native UHD content libraries will continue as storage for the years to come.