4K TVs off to a slow start, but next year looks promising

From the looks of things at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas, TV makers have all but given up on pushing 3D TV sets, turning their attention instead to 4K sets. Also called Ultra HD, 4K technology provides an image that is four times the resolution of current high definition sets, but high prices and a lack of content are still big barriers for Ultra HD’s success.

Plenty of 4K or Ultra HD TV sets were on display at the NAB show in Las Vegas.

While 4K sets remain expensive, Accenture managing director Robin Murdoch notes that prices have come down considerably and predicts further drops of 20 to 30 percent per year. In Las Vegas this week, for example, Sony announced attractive pricing on its 55- and 65-inch sets at $5000 and $7000, respectively. Sony is also offering a media player for $700 and a fee-based download service for content.

Another bright spot for 4K is the development of a new video codec called HEVC or H.265. The standard isn’t finalized yet, but should go into use early next year. HEVC can deliver video at half the bitrate of today’s popular H.264 compression, but keep the same high quality image. If this is truly the case, delivering 4K footage of providers’ existing infrastructure might be possible.

But 2013 doesn’t look to be the year for 4K, Murdoch says, as TV makers continue to search for a compelling price tag. There’s also the matter of whether a certain Cupertino, Calif.-based company is planning for the TV market.

“The big open question is what’s Apple going to do?” Murdoch said. “If Apple is going to come into the space, I mean you could have asked the same thing about the tablet market” prior to the iPad’s release in 2010.

The bottom line? We may be waiting until 2014 to see if 4K TV takes off.

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