Confused? You won’t be!

With more and more 4K content becoming available, could there be an Indian summer for TV sales? But Digital TV Group chief executive Richard Lindsay-Davies warns that retailers should beware poorly labelled HDMI ports and will need to help customers achieve the best viewing experience in their homes

Evidenced by the disappointment of those retailers who were expecting an uplift in sales as a result of the ‘Summer of Sport’ effect, an increasingly confused public is holding back from making a purchasing decision about a new TV.

This decision to delay isn’t helped by the variety of marketing terms around 4K, HDR and UHD that, even now, still puzzle consumers. And while standards like HDR are still being finalised, there is a perception of ‘future-proofing’ that may not necessarily come true.

Ultra HD and 4K are now commonplace on the high street as CE manufacturers were quick to adopt 4K and drive products into the market. Ultra High Definition Television (Ultra HD) can bring even clearer and sharper television pictures, with enhanced colour to the home. Ultra HD services are sometimes referred to as 4K – and the clue is in the name, as they show around 4,000 pixels across the width of the image.

Predicts

Futuresource Consulting predicts that by the end of 2018, 18 per cent of TVs in UK homes (9.6 million) will be 4K and by 2020 this will almost double to 17.8 million, or one-in-three.

The rule of thumb is that a viewer needs to sit 1.5 times the picture height from the screen, or closer, for the human eye to resolve ‘4K’ resolution. However, given the average screen size and distance most UK viewers sit from their TV, they won’t see much difference in resolution between HD and 4K. Ultra HD needs to include other tools like High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) to make a visible improvement over HD.

Additionally, if using an STB or external device, consumers need to be connected to the correct HDMI port for UHD content, so there is the potential for a great deal of confusion, as not all HDMI ports are created equal. Due to cost pressures, manufacturers often have several HDMI ports on a TV with different capabilities.

Some support the higher data rates required for 4K, while some support the latest version of copy protection, HDCP 2.2. Often, these HDMI ports aren’t fully labelled on the product so, without checking the manual, the viewer doesn’t always know which devices to connect to which port to ensure the best viewing experience possible.

This provides a risk for retailers as well. When customers see a different quality of images in-store compared with their home viewing experience, it could lead them to return products. Consumers need clarity over which services work with which devices, and to help the DTG created uhdready.org.uk, where manufacturers can upload the capabilities of their devices and retailers could simply check which service worked with which TV on which port, to ensure their customers enjoy the best experience at home.

At the DTG, our international UHD Plugfests continue to expose interoperability issues and allow manufacturers to resolve them prior to mass-market deployment. Since 2013, the DTG UK UHD Forum has enabled consumer electronics manufacturers and digital entertainment platforms to test-drive their products in confidence. In the best engineering traditions, we find out just how the devices fare at connecting up and showing 4K content.

Netflix and Amazon led the way with service launches closely followed by BT and Ultra-HD Blu-Ray and most recently Sky, which will launch its Ultra HD service on August 13. Others are coming soon. So finally, there is a significant amount of content. The BBC’s HD and UHD head of technology Andy Quested has said: “As we approach 2020, UHD will become business as usual.”

Quality

And while not all UHD content uses all the UHD toolkit, the overall quality of video and audio has increased significantly. The customer experience will drive what happens with UHD and image quality can improve the viewing experience with bigger pictures, more colours and increased clarity and fidelity.

Retailers are in a unique position to inform and influence the consumers and the DTG has continued its programme of briefing retailers to communicate the difference and benefits of UHD.

Resolution alone is not enough to make consumers upgrade now – 4K is about more than resolution with five key areas to consider: resolution; dynamic range; frame rate; a wider colour gamut; and audio.

We expect an Indian summer of TV sales driven by consumers requesting 4K with a good audio system. It’s a great time for people to upgrade and get a significantly better quality experience.