A s much as technology companies would like to believe that they are serving a global market, in reality tech adoption varies widely by region. What happens in London isn’t always what happens in Toronto, much less what happens in Seoul or Mumbai. The adoption of 4K is happening much faster than it did for HD, even though 4K is pulling along other data-intensive technologies: high dynamic range (HDR), high frame rates (HFR) and 10-bit or greater color depth. Now that 4K displays are available worldwide, the question turns to 4K Ultra HD content delivery: by broadcast, by cable, by satellite, or by IP? This challenge is even greater in Asia, where content delivery varies more by locale than in other regions.
Quantum SVP Geoff Stedman recently shared his prediction of how 4K and HDR adoption will play out with the readers of Asia Image. Asia Image was kind enough to let us republish with permission. Spoiler alert: it’s all about IP and OTT.
4K and HDR Ride Wave of Surging IP and OTT Adoption
IP-based broadcasting and over the top (OTT) services not only provide more content on the go for viewers but also promises to boast higher-resolution image in 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) quality.
IP-based infrastructure for delivering content to consumers has clearly taken hold over the last several years. Proof of this trend is evident in the explosive growth of Netflix, which more than doubled its subscriber base between 2012 and 2015, with much of this growth occurring outside North America. Just last month, the company launched its service in 130 more countries in Asia. As Netflix and other providers continue their global expansion, adoption of IP-based broadcasting will accelerate even more rapidly, bringing with it the reality of 4K and HDR content in the home.
In fact, IP-based broadcasting and over-the-top (OTT) services will become the primary delivery mechanisms for 4K and HDR content.
4K-capable professional-grade cameras have been around for two decades, and now the latest smartphone releases are putting 4K video cameras in millions of consumers’ pockets. 4K digital cinema was introduced in 2011, and today 4K televisions are available at a price within reach for many consumers. Soon, tablets too will offer 4K-friendly displays. While the creation of 4K content has lagged behind, experts agree that in the next two or three years, an increasing number of higher-resolution content will be produced, particularly as post facilities upgrade their infrastructure — network, storage, and media workflow applications to accommodate 4K and HDR. This endeavor is no small task.
Without compression, the jump from HD to 4K nearly quadruples storage requirements if both frame rates and pixel depth are kept constant. The extra bits per pixel required for HDR also place greater demands on workflow storage, both in terms of capacity and the ability to stream media to multiple workstations simultaneously.
In Asia, Japanese and Korean broadcast leaders are already creating 4K content, and the race to deliver Ultra-HD in the region is on. Linear broadcasters are making a strong play to provide 4K via satellite or traditional broadcast, but nonlinear and OTT services are gaining equal footing as delivery models, with every appearance of overtaking more conventional services.
Japan’s NHK is preparing to broadcast the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in 4K. Also, satellite services such as AsiaSat are launching satellite channels for 4K content; a model fueled largely by immediate demand for 4K/ UHD sports content. Some satellite operators are attempting to offer an “OTT flavor” by enriching their linear services with online channels, but the massive growth of OTT subscribers suggests that a portion of video content will simply skip linear TV — much like cord-cutters and many younger-generation media consumers go right to online channels.
Nonlinear and OTT providers are in a position not only to offer more content with more flexibility than linear services in supporting consumers’ penchant for binge-watching but also to offer HDR and higher-resolution content that boasts higher image quality. However, even with the new H.265 HEVC compression standard, these service providers face bandwidth constraints in delivering 4K content. Broadcast-quality 4K requires about 25Mbps of dedicated network capacity per stream. When multiplied by the tens of millions of potential consumers, this capacity translates to network traffic exceeding hundreds of terabits. Continued expansion of network infrastructure will be essential if 4K streams are to be delivered smoothly at this scale.
For this reason, many OTT providers are considering less bandwidth-intensive near term approaches such as the streaming of HDR HD and 2K content. A 2K HDR stream fits within the 10Mbps connection that many households have today, which offers a quite notable boost in image quality. Leveraging the stunning impact of HDR and the exceptional “up-rezzing” integrated into many 4K TVs today, this approach would allow viewers to begin enjoying much higher image quality using existing connectivity.
In the meantime in Asia-Pacific markets, government-supported development of fiber infrastructure likely will enable IPTV and OTT services to continue both their expansion and their foray into providing higher-resolution video. The region is expected to become the world’s second largest, in terms of OTT subscription video on demand (SVOD) services, with a great deal of content likely produced to the new Ultra-HD standard of 4K/ HDR. Even if this content is at first delivered to consumer televisions and tablets via the 2K HDR stream, it promises to bring the viewing experience to a whole new level.
Visit Quantum at one of our upcoming events in Asia:
- Koba in Korea, 24-27 May, 2016, Booth #D447
- Broadcast Asia in Singapore, 31 May – 3 June 2016, Stand #5G3-01.