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4K Ultra HD Hardware Far Outpacing Content, Research Shows

Futuresource research shows 4K TVs, set-top boxes and streamers from Roku, Apple, Amazon are widely accessible, but 4K content is sparse, and HDR suffers from lack of standards.

Futuresource research indicates 4K hardware is plentiful, but 4K UHD content is hard to find.
Robert Archer · December 7, 2017

Sales of Ultra HD 4K hardware continue to gain momentum according to a newly released study from Futuresource

That's the good news.

The bad news the research company discovered is that while the quantity of 4K content is also increasing, the delivery of that content to consumers hasn't kept pace. The research reveals  that once 2017 concludes, 35 percent of global TV sales will support 4K Ultra HD, which will take the worldwide penetration to approximately 8 percent. 

Moreover, 4K streaming devices are also growing in popularity. New Ultra HD streaming products from Amazon, Apple and Roku are enabling worldwide  streaming device shipments to account for more than a third (36 percent) of all media streamers sold in 2017. 

"Despite the strong hardware sales and a significant quantity of content being shot, produced and stored in 4K, only a small proportion of that is readily available to consumers," comments Tristan Veale, market analyst, Futuresource. "Therefore, the content gap is appearing to expand as the demand for the higher quality  hardware is outstripping the propensity to pay for UHD content. This gap will likely continue to widen until broadcasted UHD becomes more mainstream."

4K HDR to Ignite Manufacturer Competition

One segment of the Ultra HD market that Futuresource expects to heat up is the high dynamic range (HDR) category. 

The consumer video market may be in danger of devaluing the term HDR by not adopting a uniform standard.

Described as the "new battlefield for device manufacturers," Futuresource says the value of HDR is a more difficult message to convey to consumers than resolution. The U.K.-based research company speculates the consumer video market may also be in danger of devaluing the term HDR by not adopting a uniform standard, which could cause inferior products claiming to offer HDR compatibility to produce little or no improvement over standard 4K products to detract from products that produce quality HDR images. 

Placing much of the blame on the broadcast community, Futuresource states broadcasters need to invest in the technology at "multiple points." Unfortunately, Futuresource notes 4K upgrades and content acquisition are costly and don't justify the expense due to the market's suppressed margins.

Video on Demand (VoD) provides reasons for 4K optimism based on numbers collected by Futuresource, which finds Netflix with more than 1,000 hours of UHD content, and electronics giants such as Apple, Google and Amazon placing an emphasis on 4K content. 

"UHD is increasiongly a standard across the key SVoD services with many offering UHD content for no extra charge," adds Veale. "As such, by the end of 2017 globally it is expected that there will be over 33 million homes with a 4K TV and an SVoD subscripton that offers UHD content. SVoD providers don't face the same issues as broadcasters in delivering content, also problems with interoperability are significantly reduced due to IP connectivity. As such continue growth of available content on these platforms is expected."

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  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

Home Theater · Audio/Video · Business · Research · News · 4K · Apple · Futuresource Consulting · HDR · Roku · Sony · All Topics
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