The drive to get consumers to adopt Ultra HD continues to gather support.
A week after Warner Bros. became the third major studio to promise 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc product, beginning early this year, the UHD Alliance (UHDA) unveiled a new logo to identify to consumers devices, content and services capable of delivering the premium viewing experience.
The UHDA also announced the start of licensing of its Ultra HD Premium logo.
Ultra HD is the next-generation viewing format that features four times the resolution of HD and includes high dynamic range (HDR), which produces brilliant highlights, vibrant colors and greater contrast on compatible displays.
Sales of Ultra HD TVs, which observers say are hitting the market at a faster pace than HDTVs did, were up 494% in the third quarter on 2015, with nearly 2 million sets sold year to date in the United States alone, according to data from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
During a panel discussion after a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 4, Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, predicted “full household penetration” within 10 years.
He was joined on the panel by Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; Man-Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; and Michael Bonner, executive VP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Their presence signified the strong support among the content community for Ultra HD, which sees the new format as a way to both invigorate Blu-ray Disc sales and push consumers toward buying movies electronically.
Singh said development of the logo and specifications is important “because we have to be careful not to confuse the consumer.” He said indications are the transition will be smoother than the introduction nearly 10 years ago of Blu-ray Disc, whose launch was marred by a brief format war with HD-DVD.
Sanders echoed Dunn’s sentiments, saying, “it’s going to become ubiquitous.” He added, “The exciting thing about this is that we are going to be first – there is not a lot of broadcast out there.”
He said Ultra HD content will be delivered into consumer homes through a mix of digital and physical, with digital ultimately bigger but physical – the Blu-ray Disc – the primary entry point for consumers.
He said Warner should have 60 titles out this year, with “bigger materiality” in fourth quarter.
Dunn said Fox will release at least 35 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs in 2016.
All four panelists stressed the importance of presenting a unified front to consumers, and that marketing and education will be key. Sanders said quality in-store demonstrations, with side-by-side comparisons, will be critical.
Bonner said he is encouraged by the unity among content owners and consumer electronics manufacturers, a sharp contrast to the divide that marked the introduction of Blu-ray Disc. “It will be really important for studios, consumer electronics companies [and others] to come together and collaborate on marketing and education,” he said.
Research firm IHS Technology says annual worldwide shipments of Ultra HD TVs are expected to grow by nearly 719% over the next several years, from nearly 12 million in 2014 to nearly 96 million in 2019, with over 300 million in use by the end of 2019.
The UHDA was founded in January 2015 and has since has grown to more than 35 companies. UHDA board members include executives from Dolby Laboratories, LG Electronics, Netflix, Panasonic Corporation, Samsung Electronics, Sony Corporation, Technicolor, The Walt Disney Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Developed through the collaborative efforts of top movie studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies, the Ultra HD Premium specifications reflect not just industry expertise but also significant input from consumer testing.
The UHDA said its Ultra HD Premium logo “is reserved for products and services that comply with performance metrics for resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), peak luminance, black levels and wide color gamut among others.”
“The diverse group of UHDA companies agreed that to realize the full potential of Ultra HD the specs need to go beyond resolution and address enhancements like HDR, expanded color and ultimately even immersive audio. Consumer testing confirmed this,” said UHDA president Hanno Basse of 20th Century Fox.