MADRID — Showcasing the latest in TV technology, Brazil’s Globo, Latin America’s biggest network, will from Monday offer its flagship production “Dangerous Liaisons” in 4K High Dynamic Range to users of its Globo Play VOD service.
Netflix (“Marco Polo”), Amazon (“Mozart in the Jungle”) and Vudu already offer content in 4K HDR, a standard backed by Hollywood studios and YouTube. But Globo is the first of any mainstream broadcaster, and the first non-U.S. company known to several analysts consulted by Variety, to offer content in the format.
The move reflects a trend on display at January’s Consumer Electronics Show: that 4K HDR is becoming a new broadcast standard.
Conventional broadcasters were not expected to make the jump into HDR until 2017. Globo’s early foray with “Dangerous Liaisons” raises the question whether 4K HDR production and distribution by other free-to-air broadcasters could come online faster than anticipated.
Described by Variety as the “darling” of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, 4K HDR offers not only 4K’s higher pixel number definition but greater pictorial realism, such as in skin tones, as well as a broader color gamut and the ability to distinguish visual details in particular bright or dark scenes.
“Dangerous Liaisons” stars Brazilian heartthrob Selton Mello as serial seducer Augusto de Valmont, Patricia Pillar in the Glenn Close role and telenovela star Marjorie Estiano as the devoutly religious but seduced Mariana de Santanna. The production hews fairly faithfully to the plot dynamics of Pierre Chonderlos de Laclos’ original 1782 epistolary novel.
But, set in 1920s high-society Brazil, it highlights the near-surreal wealth of Brazil’s upper crust in a mostly dirt-poor country, and features period details that lend themselves to 4K HDR technology. Many of “Dangerous Liaisons’” scenes were shot at Argentina’s Santa Candida Palace, a sumptuous country mansion built in 1847 in an Italian high-pomp style with columns, huge fireplaces, coffered ceilings, wooden doors, and marble floors. Outdoor settings take in Patagonia’s sun-dazzled Puerto Madryn beach.
“The settings and landscapes allowed us to explore the brightest bright and subtle blacks. It’s perfect content to be graded in HDR,” said Raymond Barros, Globo chief technology officer.
“As far as we know, Globo will be the first free-to-air broadcaster which offers 4K HDR on its Over-the-Top platform,” he added.
Brazilians will need 4K HDR-compatible TV sets to catch the high-tech version of “Dangerous Liaisons” via Globo’s VOD service, Globo Play.
Globo Play has struck distribution deals with five smart TV platforms: Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG and Philips. It has seen “nearly 500,000 smart TV downloads,” said Erick Bretas, Globo’s head of digital media.
“Smart TVs allow delivery straight to the home via high speed broadband and content distribution networks such as Akamai,” said Ed Border of Ampere Analysis.
He added: “If you’re not streaming to mobile devices over a home network, then mobile reception could pose bandwidth challenges. Mobile streaming is not always an option at home, as the quality of mobile coverage can vary greatly.”
VOD remains “the only way to provide mass market 4K HDR programming through the medium term,” said Gareth Sutcliffe of Enders Analysis.
“From an efficiency standpoint, there is negligible additional overhead to distribute 4K HDR over non-HDR 4K in a VOD environment, but the consumer proposition for HDR is superior enough that it could generate additional margin,” Sutcliffe said.
One question is how big of an audience the 4K HDR version of “Dangerous Liaisons” will attract.
“We know 4K HDR-compatible sets are at this moment expensive, but we expect the prices to decrease when manufacturers gain scale,” Bretas said.
At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, nearly all the big-name TV manufacturers touted 4K HDR display units. In Britain, three of LG’s four new sets this year will be HDR-compatible. Hisense, another TV manufacturer, is promising a 43-inch TV model with HDR for later in 2016 for as little as $400.
“4K HDR-enabled displays will become the default purchase option within the next 18 to 24 months, and as volume picks up…the cost is going to fall quickly for access to HDR,” Sutcliffe said.