Conflicts Between Broadcasters and Set Makers

Over the years, Meko (the publishers of Display Monitor), Displaysearch, NPD Displaysearch, IHS and IHS Markit have run events around IFA to talk about the TV market. However, it has always proved very difficult to do this at a profit and this year, the remains of the tradition was a ‘fireside chat’ in the IFA Next area, in a session that included a dancer that has had implants to become a ‘cyborg’ by getting sensations when there was an earthquake or on the moon. The topic of the afternoon was immersiveness.

Anyway, Paul Gray, Research Director TV CE and Devices at IHS Markit and Stephan Heimbecher, a board member of the German TV Platform (and CTO of Sky Deutschland) brought us back to earth on the topic of TV.

Gray asked the audience who had a 4K set (a number) and who has watched 4K recently (a few) and who watched the world cup in UHD? (not so many)

Heimbecher said that the trend to 8K and higher resolutions is really because ‘TV makers are going 8K because they can’. Heimbecher said is it really correct to look at what the content makers are doing.

Will people start use 360 VR to get more immersion?

HeimbecherIn the past, if you wanted to understand the user experience in broadcasting, you could generally get away with just looking at your own and your family’s viewing. However, in TV today, there is so much more variation in the audience and interaction is so varied that it is no longer so easy to judge from one’ s own information and experience.

Many consumers are getting confused already with 8K and many simply can’t cope with the speed of technology evolution in TV. Although the main topic of the discussion was TV, there are many more platforms such as smartphones and PCs that are also updating very rapidly. Are we rich enough to buy all this stuff? Gray asked ‘is the promise of upgrade-proofing dead?’.

Equipment costs for broadcasters can be a problem because of the rapid turnover of technology. Is the technology now ahead of the art? Heimbecher thinks this is possible. Most VR is just 360º video so far, but is there a possibility of new forms of storytelling. However, it will take time to develop the artistic skills to exploit this.

Heimbecher said that there has been little or no collaboration between the set makers and the broadcasters since the introduction of HD. Collaboration is essential to deliver a consistent experience and the consumer is confused by the different TV issues.

How to make the steps to get that collaboration? It is likely that things are really only likely to change if consumers step back from the technology. Confusion can lead to frustration. However, will consumers step back?

Analyst Comment

It has been my experience that even with the change to HD, there was no collaboration between the display/set makers and the broadcasters. Broadcasters in Europe wanted to go to 720P with higher frame rates as this seemed a better value for consumers and broadcasters. However, panel makers didn’t even make 720 panels, they made 768P panels. That meant that even HD ready sets needed to scale the video, reducing the quality. I remember explaining the logic to a technical committee of the EBU that I spoke to about panel developments. PDP makers had gone to 1366 x 768 simply because the line drivers were designed to work in multiples of 256. The LCD makers would not make panels with lower resolution than the PDP makers, so panels at 1280 x 720 that would not have needed scaling were not made. That automatically meant a reduction in visual quality.

I’m not sure that too cosy a relationship between broadcasters and set makers is in the consumers’ interests, but some agreement on roadmaps and timings would be better for consumers. However, the chances of that happening are vanishingly remote because of the pressure on set and panel makers. (BR)