NAB 2015: Increased competition is driving content and service providers to differentiate themselves, and 4K is the logical step, says Gavin Mann.

4K adoption may yet be hampered by cost, technology and content constraints.

Efforts to address these challenges, along with obstacles in other parts of the 4K ecosystem, will determine success for broadcasters and service providers.

Dedicated streaming providers such as Netflix and YouTube have both shared plans to provide 4K TV programming and therefore represent a competitive threat to traditional broadcasters.

Yet incumbent providers have a number of strengths including the proven ability to educate the mainstream consumer – taking them on the upgrade journey – and decades of successful investments in content creation.

Delivering large numbers of simultaneous streams at 4K quality cannot be done without cutting-edge technology in place.

This means video service providers, including traditional broadcasters, will need to upgrade existingarchitecture on the delivery side, covering everything from internal network capacity to processing and server capacity.

Network challenge

The success of 4K is dependent on the right infrastructure.

Broadband speeds continue to represent one of the largest obstacles. According to industry experts, a home broadband connection of between 15 Mb per second and 40 Mb per second is required for a stable 4K experience.

Yet average UK broadband speeds currently sit at under 10 Mb per second.

Providers will need to make major investments to address this challenge, with networks needing to become between two and four times faster to enable wider adoption of 4K in the future.

One of the challenges for 4K take-up has been the availability and affordability of 4K devices.

However we are now seeing more 4K televisions at a variety of price points.

Manufacturers such as Sony - with businesses in film making, distribution and camera manufacturing - have a high incentive to develop and promote 4K, given the multiple business opportunities available.

While 4K TV is in the early stages of take-up, there are promising signs of consumer interest.

Research from Accenture indicates that globally, among those who plan to buy a TV during the next 12 months, 25% plan to buy a 4K TV, up by 7% from last year.

Among those who plan to buy a TV during the next 12 months in the UK, 18% plan to buy a 4K TV, up 8% from last year.

While devices are increasingly important, content is critical and requires the right financial investment.

4K content creation requires new technology including the latest cameras to record it and editing suites that can handle the huge file sizes.

Many content makers are now looking at developing their programmes in 4K, to ensure they are ready to sell 4K content when the technology takes off.

  • Gavin Mann is Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology division global broadcast industry lead