Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Samsung, Disney, Netflix, and more team up to define Ultra HD and how you'll watch it


4K TVs were one of the big stories of CES last year, but even now, there remain questions about what you'll be able to watch and how you'll be able to watch it. It turns out, basically every company involved in this process — from content creators to TV makers — realize that this is a problem, and they're teaming up to solve it. Samsung is today announcing that team: a partnership called the UHD Alliance, which plans to set standards for 4K content, terminology, and delivery.

Some huge names (and competitors) are all teaming up to do this. On the TV side, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp are involved. On the content side, there's Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Netflix, and DirecTV. Dolby and Technicolor are also included. "This is a game changer," H.S. Kim, a Samsung displays executive, said while announcing the partnership. "Most importantly, for consumers."
4K TVs were one of the big stories of CES last year, but even now, there remain questions about what you'll be able to watch ...

Kim says that the UHD Alliance's goal is to establish a "healthy UHD ecosystem." That includes making sure there's content, making sure that the content looks really good, and figuring out how it's delivered. The partnership is just getting started — it didn't come together until late last year — but Samsung expects to start seeing results in 2015. However, those results may be simple at first. Part of the alliance's goal is standardizing how we talk about UHD, so the early results of this partnership may not be more than marketing. (Here's one good example of why that's necessary: UHD and 4K are generally used interchangeably, even though 4K is a slightly different resolution than UHD).

Movie studios aren't just interested because this will help viewers watch their content: the hope is that the alliance can help make video look better, too. "These technologies allow us to utilize a much broader palette to tell our stories while providing viewers with true-to-life colors, superior contrast and premium picture quality," Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, says in a statement. That's good news for TV manufacturers as well, as better-looking content means that their TVs will look all the more appealing.

Samsung thinks that this is a critical time to create the alliance. Bill Lee, Samsung's VP of TV, says that Samsung expects 4K TV ownership to quadruple this year. That's not a surprising guess — 4K sets have been getting more and more affordable, and 4K content has finally been starting to trickle out. It's not a rich ecosystem yet, but it's something you can buy into if you want a top-of-the-line TV.

"Nothing but good can come from it," Lee says of the alliance. "It's just a great opportunity for the industry to rally around UHD."