Can We Agree on UltraHD? Asks DTG Summit

Kings Place2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the UK’s Digital Television Group. The annual Summit, held in King’s Place, London, evaluates the progress made in the digital TV industry over the past year, as well as examining the challenges in the years ahead. The focus this year was on the ‘better pixels’ enhancements that are due to be part of UltraHD; standards; and, to a lesser extent, mobile TV.

The last two years have seen Ed Vaizey – minister for culture, communication and the creative industries – speak at the event. However, the UK’s recent General Election meant that he was unavailable this year.

Steve Hewlett has moderated the DTG Summit for several years, and remains popular – for both his ability to grill the speakers and for mercilessly poking fun at anything he finds ridiculous. In the firing line this year was the event’s title, ‘CollaborVation’ (collaboration and innovation).

DTG Summit bannerWe are in the middle of a significant industrial shift in the TV industry, said Hewlett. Several years ago, standards were common and there was competition on software. Now, companies want to make interoperability difficult in order to lock consumers into their own ecosystem.

Another opening speaker was Richard Lindsay-Davies, CEO of the DTG, who asked: is it more effective to work collaboratively as an industry, or should we rollout hundreds of different VoD players? The answer, of course, was obvious.

Lindsay-Davies cited the story of a friend who owns a Tesla car (“which is ridiculous”). Teslas, of course, have a large LCD screen inside that acts as the control panel. Every six weeks or so, an update is rolled out and the entire UI changes, and his friend can’t find how to turn on the headlights! We are seeing that now in digital TV, but it should be avoided: “We need to innovate, but also treat TV as a stable platform”, he said.

Open-source standards and cross-platform collaboration are key. Lindsay-Davies mentioned phone manufacturers, who are producing modular products like Google’s Project Ara to extend the phones’ lifetimes (Samsung, of course, already produces something like this in its Evolution Kit, as does Haier (Haier’s New TV Will be a Doctor on Your Wall) – TA).

There is a disconnect now between hardware manufacturers and broadcasters. Vendors want to launch UltraHD TVs to drive their current business. Broadcasters, though, are cautious because of the failure of 3D. They must also look at supporting image enhancements like high dynamic range (HDR) and wide colour gamuts (WCG). The DTG sits somewhere between these two parties, ensuring that there is scale in UltraHD when broadcasters eventually launch services. Collaboration is key to deploying the scale that the industry is used to.