BDA: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Format Making Big Strides

LAS VEGAS — The Blu-ray disc market has a new star, 4K Ultra HD.

“Hollywood really got behind the format last year,” said Sony’s Victor Matsuda, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association’s global promotions committee, during the Consumer Electronics Show.

“Everybody says the same thing, sales are a very pleasant surprise,” he said.

UHD blu-ray disc sales increased eightfold from 2016, according to the BDA. In addition, the number of titles more than doubled in 2017, with many studios releasing catalog as well as new releases on the new format, Matsuda noted. There are currently more than 250 titles in the market.

In July Disney joined Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount,
Sony, Universal and Warner in supporting 4K UHD blu-ray, announcing the release of megahit Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 on 4K UHD blu-ray.

“That fact that they chose the biggest movie of the year prior to Star Wars was a testament to the format,” Matsuda said.

Announcing it with the stars of the movie at Comic-con also was a great show of support for the format, as has been support from other talent such as Galaxy director James Gunn and acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, Matsuda noted, adding Nolan’s Dunkirk is being sent out to Oscar voters on 4K UHD BD.

In other positive news, 4K Ultra HD player sales were up 133% in 2017, and the number of manufacturers and number of products doubled last year from 2016. LG, Microsoft, Oppo, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Cambridge Audio all produce 4K UHD blu-ray players, some of which were highlighted at CES. Most of these manufacturers are coming out with a full line, Matsuda noted.

“The key driver is sales of 4K TVs,” he said.

Nearly one-third of households globally are anticipated to have 4K UHD TVs by 2021, according to FutureSource data cited by the BDA. More than half of U.S. and Western European households are anticipated to have the new TVs by 2021, Matsuda noted.

Streaming services that support 4K UHD include Amazon Video, Netflix, GooglePlay, Vudu, FandangoNow and iTunes. Streaming devices that support the format include Roku 4, Amazon Fire, NVIDIA Shield, Chromecast Ultra and Apple TV. Still, Matsuda pointed out that to stream in 4K UHD with high dynamic range (HDR), Netflix recommends a consistent minimum download speed of at least 25 megabits per second. In the U.S., only 21% of users enjoy such speeds, with such developed markets as France, Germany and the United Kingdom at adoption percentages lower than that, noted Matsuda. That doesn’t even account for drains on speed such as multiple users streaming at the same time, he added.

Thus, the blu-ray disc is still the most convenient way to get top-quality 4K UHD with HDR content, he said.

“With our best of quality proposition, we can take a share of that pie,” he said.

With the expansion of HDR technologies, the BDA’s new spec (V3.2) accommodates Dolby Vision, HDR10+ (which garnered support from Fox and Warner at the show and it backed by Samsung) and Philips/Technicolor’s SL-HDR2. Supporting any of these HDR technologies is optional for both player and content. The BDA also approved a new UHD BD recording format spec for Japan.

The importance of HDR to the consumer experience and potential consumer confusion about it have prompted the BDA to step up consumer outreach. Consumer awareness of 4K is fairly high, especially in the United States at 75%, the BDA noted, citing FutureSource research. U.S. awareness of HDR (44%) lags significantly. The awareness gap exists in other markets as well.

To educate consumers about HDR, which is actually “the key consumer benefit,” Matsuda noted, the BDA has created a brochure, a website and educational videos, among other materials, that can be utilized by consumers, manufacturers and retailers.

The educational videos are available on the BDA’s website and on YouTube.

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