NAB conference makes way for more 4K content

Most of the equipment that broadcasters need to adopt the higher resolution is now available

This year the number of 4K TVs sold around the world will almost triple. Those sales, along with more mature equipment for producing and distributing content, are fueling overall interest in the technology.

Being a TV broadcaster has become a lot more complicated in the last couple of years. The broadcasters have to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, and younger viewers, in particular, are abandoning TV for a combination of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

This week the broadcast industry is gathering in Las Vegas for the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) conference, to see what equipment vendors have to offer to help them compete.

Audience interest in watching movies, TV shows and sports in 4K (3480 x 2160 pixels) is growing, and broadcasters are becoming more open to making the upgrades necessary for offering such content than they were one or two years ago, according to Tom Morrod, senior director at market research company IHS.

Most of the equipment they need is on display on the NAB show floor. The technology necessary to connect all the parts needs to be improved, though. A lack of set-top boxes is also holding back rollouts, according to Morrod.

The popularity of 4K-compatible TVs is fueling interest, though. This year, shipments of 4K LCD TV and OLED TVs are expected to exceed 30 million sets, up from 11.7 million in 2014, according to market research company.

Even if that number pales in comparison to anticipated overall sales of TVs (about 235 million), the growth should help encourage the creation of more 4K content. Lower prices for 4K TVs will help propel sales. On a price-per-inch basis, the average price premium compared to full HD TVs will fall from 143 percent to less than 100 percent this year.

The fight between broadcasters and streaming providers such as Netflix and Amazon is showing few signs of letting up, and 4K isn't the only battleground. Amazon last week announced that Prime members in the U.S., U.K. and Germany will be able to watch titles with high-dynamic range (HDR) technology this year, starting with original content.

HDR will offer better image quality thanks to improved contrast, assuming you have an HDR-compatible TV. So far, HDR has more commonly been used to improve the quality of still photography. But in a sign of growing interest in the technology, Netflix has announced it's adding HDR to its offerings.

On its part, Amazon is adding extra content to movies and TV shows by bringing its X-Ray feature to the Amazon Fire TV streaming media player and Fire TV stick. The feature has previously been available on the company's tablets, and lets users view information about actors and the characters they play on the screen.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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