The advent of 4K UHD content brings new opportunities for operators along with a number of challenges in terms of costs, compatibility and compliance. Before discussing these, however, it’s important to note that the terms Ultra HD (UHD) and 4K have been used interchangeably by TV makers, broadcasters, the media, and as a result, consumers. While they are not the same, 4K appears to have caught on as the de facto term for both.

What’s often lost in the discussion is that the UHD specification allows for image enhancements beyond resolution that can greatly improve the consumer viewing experience. The UHD standard also allows for 8K resolution, which is mostly applicable for large commercial displays.

The bottom line for operators currently, however, is that continuing to meet the needs of existing customers and maintaining flexible service delivery are key to implementing a successful 4K UHD strategy. Operators who hope to take advantage of the opportunities will have to account for impacts to existing business models in terms of device resolution, encryption levels, bandwidth and scaling.

Ultra HD – Ready for Prime Time?

A number of factors influence the proliferation of 4K and UHD content, including bandwidth, technology infrastructure, security, device capabilities and of course, availability of the content itself. Satellite and Cable TV providers may currently be best positioned to roll out UHD content distribution in terms of bandwidth and sustained image quality, and services are slowly starting to become available.

Movie studios on the other hand, face a serious dilemma when it comes to 4K content. While they are keen to deliver the stunning experience made possible by its near cinematic quality, the potential revenue loss from piracy is much greater due to the value of the content.

Studios are seeking a secure way to distribute 4K cinematic releases to the public at large as quickly as possible and the result is MovieLabs. MovieLabs is a joint venture by the six major Hollywood studios to catalyze consumer media distribution and use.