4K UHD devices and content grows but HDR message confuses consumers

4K UHD devices and content is growing strongly, representing 35% of global TV sales in 2017, but there is limited delivery of content to consumers. High Dynamic Range (HDR) messages are also confusing and making it harder for consumers to appreciate the benefits, according to research from Futuresource Consulting.

4K UHD sales are soaring
4K UHD sales are soaring

The UHD device market continues to excel with media streamers, set-top boxes, games consoles and UHD TVs all demonstrating significant growth. The quantity of 4K UHD content that is being created is also growing, but there is limited delivery of it to consumers, finds Futuresource Consulting in its latest 4K UHD Consumer Market Tracking report.

Futuresource forecasts that throughout 2017, 35% of global TV sales will be 4K UHD, taking the worldwide household penetration of 4K UHD TVs to 8%, as the average price continues to fall, and larger screens increase in popularity, many of which will be UHD as standard.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is the new battlefield for device manufacturers. However, it is a more difficult consumer message to convey than the improved resolution. Furthermore, the industry is in danger of devaluing the term with no universally accepted definition of how much better than "standard" dynamic range devices need to be before they can be labelled HDR. As such, there are many poor implementations in the market, branded HDR, but with little discernible improvement.

The UHD media streaming market continues to hot up, with new UHD devices from Roku, Amazon and Apple helping propel worldwide 4K UHD shipments to account for 36% of all media streamers sold throughout 2017.

The report finds that broadcasters must invest in UHD at multiple points, with this investment currently not being matched by the financial return from customers. As such, the upgrades and content acquisition are a challenging justification for many operators that are seeing increasingly suppressed margins.

Video On Demand providers of transactional and subscription content continue to gain momentum globally with Netflix banking over 1,000 hours of UHD content and UHD a renewed focus for Apple, Google and Amazon. Apple's offer of 4K UHD titles at the same price as HD on its iTunes store has already prompted a response from Amazon and Google, both of which have lowered the cost of 4K UHD titles.

Posted by Chris Dickinson, technology journalist and editor of the Always On blog. 29th November 2017.