Michael Bay’s onstage implosion got the Twitter buzz but Samsung’s 2014 Consumer Electronics Show announcement advanced the Ultra HD TV platform in a major way, with the debut of several large TVs and the announcement of a series of partnerships to ensure Ultra HD content flows to the home.
Additional 4K content partners Samsung announced during a keynote at the 2014 International CES include DirecTV and M-Go, the joint venture of Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation. The new line of Samsung UHD televisions will support HEVC, the next-generation video compression technology, to more efficiently deliver 4K video — which provides four times the resolution of current 1080p HD.
On the hardware side, Joe Stinziano, executive VP of Samsung Electronics America, showcased 105- and 78-inch curved screen UHD televisions, as well as a “bendable TV” unit that switches from a flat screen to a curved view at the touch of a button. Curved screens reduce glare and make the screen appear larger.
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A YouTube moment came after Stinziano introduced surprise guest Michael Bay to talk about “heart-pounding, explosive action.” After the teleprompter failed, Bay tried to “wing it” but when Stinziano asked him a question, Bay said “Excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and walked off the stage.
The availability of content for Samsung owners should reassure the company’s customers — someone who buys a Samsung UHD TV can be pretty sure there’ll be something to watch in 4K right away — but proprietary services and exclusive content deals will likely do little to encourage consumer confidence in the larger UHD ecosystem.
Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America, announced partnerships with the NBA and Pro Golfers Assn. The NBA will have apps across Samsung’s entertainment product line, and the PGA will have exclusive apps on the Samsung platform. Baxter also brought Mark Cuban to the stage to talk briefly about “second screen 2.0, where it’s not just about reacting and commenting, but it’s about integrating with your television set, integrating with the features of your smart TV. It’s a whole new world and it’s going to be exciting.”
Of UHD, Cuban said “All that extra resolution, all those extra pixels, will be used for gaming and untold extra things developers will come up with. It’ll turn the TV into a unique ultra-high-resolution platform, and the possibilities are endless.”
After the introduction of new kitchen appliances, the presentation moved to tablets. Nandra Ramachandran, VP, tablets and emerging business for Samsung Telecommunications America, announced a line of new high-end tablets, the Tab Pro and Note Pro, including 12.2-, 10.1- and 8.4-inch models. Ramachandran stressed the tech specs and pro capabilities of the new line, but since tablets are now being recognized by much of the entertainment industry as portable televisions, they are likely to have an impact on viewing as well as productivity.
Samsung Electronics president and CEO B.K. Yoon kicked off the presentation by giving some insight into the guiding principles underlying Samsung’s strategy. Yoon mentioned the shift of world population into cities, the aging of the global population and the emerging risks of climate change. He said the home of the future must be able to protect residents, be flexible and be responsive. “We want our homes to be safe from disease, pollution and crime.”
This year “will be a breakthrough year for Ultra HD, and it is important to deliver on not only the top-of-the-line products but also great content to fully enjoy the benefits of Ultra HD,” Kyungshik Lee, senior VP of the service strategy team for Samsung’s Visual Display Business, said in a prepared statement.
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Under its deal with Paramount, Samsung is releasing a UHD Video Pack scheduled to start shipping this spring that will come preloaded with UHD-quality content including feature films “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “World War Z,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Forrest Gump.” That will also include titles from 20th Century Fox.
Samsung said it plans to expand its partnerships for the UHD Video Pack, to provide a total of 50 titles throughout 2014.
Netflix has deals with other TV manufacturers, including LG and Vizio, to deliver “House of Cards” season 2 and other titles in 4K format.
Amazon, for its part, is working with Warner Bros., Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox and Discovery Communications to bring their content in UHD to Samsung TVs. Last month, Amazon Studios announced that it plans to shoot all full original series in 4K Ultra HD in 2014.
Meanwhile, Comcast said later this year it will launch an app for Xfinity TV customers on Samsung UHD TVs that will allow them to stream over the Internet a variety of on-demand 4K movies and TV shows. Later this year, according to Comcast, its X1 set-top boxes will deliver 4K UHD content to all UHD-capable televisions.
The cable operator said it is currently working with programmers, including its own NBCUniversal, to provide a library of 4K UHD choices for the Xfinity TV 4K app.