Study: Broadcasters Still Suspect of UHD, HEVC

Few global media companies are willing to make any significant investments in broadcasting Ultra HD (UHD) technology today, with many believing there’s just not enough consumer demand to upgrade from HD, according to a new report.

The survey from multiscreen video and ad management solutions company Imagine Communications garnered the opinions of more than 700 broadcast and media professionals, and found that nearly 50% estimated it would take more than two years before there was enough market demand to justify any significant investment in UHD.

Twenty-eight percent pegged that timeline at least more than a year, 17% said under a year, while only 5% said there was enough consumer demand for UHD today. It was survey respondents who work for content distributors and post-production houses who were most likely to say there’s enough demand for UHD today to justify investments.

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“On the surface, the transition from HD to UHD seems like the most pedestrian of all the technology transitions confronting media professionals,” the “2016 Focus Forward Technology Trends Report” reads. “After all, [TV] is marked by continuous advancements in resolution and picture quality, part of a never-ending quest to deliver consumers as-if-you-were-there experiences over the display devices of their choice.”

But with UHD, consumers need new TVs, new set-tops, added bandwidth, and, of course, enough UHD content to justify upgrading their hardware. And while 29% of respondents said UHD device penetration is a top factor informing their decisions, it was the cost factors associated with upgrading infrastructure (36%) that topped the list of concerns.

“The survey results indicate that despite fairly rosy estimates of 4K/UHD television sales over the next year or so, more than a quarter of media professionals harbor doubts that consumers will purchase new TVs at the fevered pace being predicted or that a tipping point-worthy number of consumer devices will be equipped with the technology required to decode compressed UHD video,” the report reads.

Adoption of the video compression standard High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), or H.265, is also surprisingly low, according to the survey, despite its ability to give distributors a way to almost halve bandwidth requirements, without sacrificing video quality. The Imagine report saw 62% of respondents say they’re not using HEVC at all, with 64% of TV broadcasters specifically saying the same. Of the 38% who did say they were using it, only 13% said they were using it to compress UHD content.