Exciting Times for UltraHD – and UK Politics!

It has been an interesting week. I spent a couple of days in Luxembourg at the SES Partner day. There was, of course, lots of talk about UltraHD and HDR and I got my first chance to have a good look at the latest Samsung SUHD TV set showing some great HDR UltraHD content. Meanwhile, we have been trying to get our quarterly research data processed and outside our company, it has been a fascinating UK election night. All the pre-election opinion polls turned out to be completely wrong and there was much excitement among the pundits. I suspect that there will be three big constitutional questions coming out of the election – the future of Scotland in the UK, the way the electoral system punishes smaller parties and, of course, the issue that has dominated UK politics for fifty years – the position in Europe of the UK.

I don’t intend to get into those questions, I just hope that a period of constitutional change and uncertainty does not upset the delicate growth that the UK economy has seen in the last year or two. The world needs as much growth as possible, wherever it can be found.
Anyway, returning to the Samsung demonstration, the details are in our report on the SES event, but the conclusion is that I think it was the best image quality I have ever seen from a commercial shipping TV set. Admittedly, there is no content and no way to play the content for the consumer, yet, but it shows the potential of the combination of LED backlights, quantum dots for wide colour gamut, high dynamic range and UltraHD resolution.
The demonstration was so good, that for the first time, I actually thought that my own next TV might be an LCD, although I remain unconvinced about the curve on the Samsung set! My Panasonic PDP set is a really great TV for FullHD content and I have never regretted my purchase choice. I liked the look of the OLED sets that I have seen and those would also be an option, but the brightness of the LCD solutions does look really, really good.
The impressive performance shown could be delivered by Blu-ray from the beginning of next year. John Adam of Samsung said at the SES event that he believes that the experience that can be delivered could revitalise packaged media. He might be right, but it seems to me that if Blu-ray gets a resurgence, it could be a “last hurrah”, a brief flurry before continued and inevitable decline. At TV Connect a couple of weeks ago, an STB technology company told me that its clients are assuming that, by 2018, broadband speeds both to the home and within the home, will be at around a gigabit. If that is the case, even streamed UltraHD with HDR and HFR will not be a real problem to deliver, although there may be infrastructure challenges in the process.
Adam made the point that if broadcasters adopt the, relatively simple, BBC proposals for HDR, then sets and systems could deliver very quickly, while maintaining backward compatibility with existing sets. I think it was a powerful argument for the DVB adopting it for the next phase of UltraHD. There’s a DVB meeting next week to discuss this, so things may be clearer after that.
Nobody really raised this kind of question at the SES event, but in private comments I heard several times that the satellite community is genuinely frightened by the prospect of developing broadband speeds. Personally, I think that a hybrid combination of satellite and broadband remains the optimum TV delivery architecture for the next five years, at least, especially if SES can get an operator to really jump on board with SAT>IP. BSkyB was a pioneer with SES of SAT>IP but there was no sign of Sky at the event, although there were attendees from Sky Italia.
Anyway, it was great to come away from an event with excitement about the prospects for another step change in visual quality in the home entertainment experience!