4K/UHD Content: Not Ready for Prime Time

While 4K/UHD TV households begin to grow past the most eager “early adopter” households due to price decreases, there are still only a small handful of commercial deployments for 4K/UHD program delivery.

There other factors besides the amount of available content that currently define the number of 4K/UHD-capable households. Other factors include bandwidth constraints for viewing 4K programming from streaming services, as well as the current level of incompatibility between service offerings and TVs.

DirecTV took a step toward decreasing the device/service incompatibility issue last week when it released a 4K Genie Mini set-top box that allows more customers to watch the DirecTV service 4K Ultra HD programming on nearly any 4K TV. TV service providers and TV makers are keen to drive additional revenue with a new high-end service and/or device, and we believe that the partial list of service/programming efforts will continue to grow. There have been a significant number of announcements of early-stage testing, almost all of which feature HEVC-encoded content at the core. The table below lists some of these major efforts.


Nearly all efforts to date make use of the latest MPEG family of codecs – HEVC, which promises, when fully optimized, to deliver a 50% improvement in video-compression efficiency compared to its predecessor AVC/H.264. And device makers have been busy adding HEVC to many types of Internet-connected devices such as mobile handsets, tablets and Smart TVs. DTC forecasts more than 440 million of these combined HEVC devices will ship into the marketplace this year.

However, there are three important considerations necessary for the widespread adoption of UHD video services: 4K displays, sufficient bandwidth and content availability. So far, it appears that we’ll have to wait a bit longer for content to catch up to devices.