Hulu, which dropped 4K content in 2018 after launching access in 2016, reintroduced 4K content this summer exclusively to subscribers using Apple TV and Google Chromecast. Hulu 4K content in 2016 was limited to Sony PlayStation 4 Pro.
The Disney-owned SVOD with 28 million domestic subs Oct. 14 announced it is expanding 4K access to Xbox One consoles — reportedly with plans to include Amazon Fire TV and LG smart TVs pending.
Hulu 4K content, which requires a 4k UHD TV but doesn’t support high-dynamic range (HDR), is limited to original programming such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The First,” “Castle Rock,” “Ramy,” “Atlanta,” and “Catch-22,” among others.
The expansion comes as Disney plans to bundle Hulu with ESPN+ and pending SVOD service, Disney+ for $12.99 monthly.
Sales and shipments of 4K UHD televisions has hit 60% market penetration in some parts of the world, including the United States, according to new data from IHS Markit.
Speaking Oct. 14 at the MIPCOM confab in Cannes, France, Paul Gray, research analysis director at the London-based IHS, said 4K UHD TVs now exceed more than half of all TV shipments worldwide.
The analyst contends there are more than 260 million 4K UHD households globally — a tally that is expected to reach 574 million households by 2023, according to Advanced-Television.com, which reported Gray’s comments from France. About 34% of North American homes have 4KUHD TVs, increasing to 64% in the next four years.
Notably, domestic shipments of 4K UHD TVs surged in North America as distributors stockpile inventory ahead of any proposed tariff increases on Chinese-manufactured products by the Trump Administration.
Meanwhile, next-generation 8K resolution continues to grow slowly with 167,000 display units shipped in 2019. This is expected to reach 3 million units by 2023.
The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, Aug. 27 announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. (L-R): Panasonic’s Ron Martin, Vizio’s Kenneth Lowe, Warner’s Michael Zink and director Rian Johnson were on hand to announce the launch. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for UHD Alliance)
The UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, on Aug. 27 announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies and episodic TV called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended.
Rian Johnson, director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the soon-to-be-released Knives Out, helped introduce Filmmaker Mode at an event in Los Angeles.
“As someone who makes movies, I love this so much,” he said. “I know that it means that every choice that I’ve made in the movies that I make, from the choices on set all the way up through through the color grade, are going to be coming through when somebody watches them at home.”
“I want to applaud everybody with the UHD Alliance,” he added.
“This initiative enjoys broad support from some of Hollywood’s most notable directors along with the filmmaking community,” said UHD Alliance president Mike Fiddler.
Current TVs use advanced video processing capabilities to offer consumers a broad range of options in viewing various types of content, ranging from sports to video games. Filmmaker Mode will allow viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, according to the Alliance.
LG Electronics, Panasonic and VIZIO announced support for Filmmaker Mode. Specific product and implementation plans will be announced by each company at a later date. Panasonic expects to include the mode in 2020 models, said Panasonic’s Ron Martin at the event. Vizio announced its 2020 Smart TV product lineup also will include the new mode.
Vizio’s Carlos Angulo noted that the company’s research showed that 85% of consumers leave the TV in the mode out of the box or rarely change it.
“Modern televisions have extraordinary technical capabilities, and it is important that we harness these new technologies to ensure that the home viewer sees our work presented as closely as possible to our original creative intentions,” said director Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk, Interstellar and the Dark Knight Trilogy) in a statement. “Through collaboration with TV manufacturers, Filmmaker Mode consolidates input from filmmakers into simple principles for respecting frame rate, aspect ratio, color and contrast and encoding in the actual media so that televisions can read it and can display it appropriately.”
While studios and CE manufacturers have long worked in concert to deliver new entertainment technologies and experiences to consumers, Filmmaker Mode marks the first collaboration to add leaders in the creative community to the mix.
The UHD Alliance informed the project by surveying the creative community. Of the more then 400 members of the creative community surveyed, 96% said maintaining creative intent in the home was important to them, said Annie Chang, VP of creative technology at Universal.
There were three things repeatedly heard from filmmakers, said Warner Bros. VP of technology Michael Zink. They cared about the home viewing experience of their films, they knew modern TVs delivered more advanced quality, and they wanted it to be easy for consumers to access the correct settings for their content.
“I care deeply about how cinema is experienced at home because that’s where it lives the longest. That’s where cinema is watched and re-watched and experienced by families,” added Ryan Coogler, director of Black Panther and Creed, in a statement. “By allowing the artists in the tent to help consult and give feedback to the electronics companies on Filmmaker Mode, we can collectively help make the consumer’s experience even more like it is in the cinema.”
Johnson noted that he once tried to turn off motion smoothing on a bar TV and even he couldn’t figure it out. “It’s nested very often in deep sub-menus,” he said.
Unlike some picture modes which may require the user to enter one or more menus to find and select, Filmmaker Mode will be activated either automatically, through metadata embedded in the content, or through a single button which enables the consumer to activate Filmmaker Mode without moving through multiple menu levels. Further, to make finding displays that can display content in Filmmaker Mode, the name and settings will be consistent across multiple TV brands.
“With all the advances in today’s televisions, now is a great time to introduce Filmmaker Mode. It’s just impossible to ignore what the technology can do,” noted director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread) in a statement. “We can use these capabilities to preserve the intent of the filmmaker, preserve the purpose of the art.”
As part of the specification development process for Filmmaker Mode, the UHDA also worked with and solicited input from the Directors Guild of America and The Film Foundation.
“I started the Film Foundation in 1990 with the goal to preserve film and protect the filmmaker’s original vision so that the audience can experience these films as they were intended to be seen,” noted director Martin Scorsese in a statement. “Most people today are watching these classic films at home rather than in movie theaters, making Filmmaker Mode of particular importance when presenting these films which have specifications unique to being shot on film.”
“Every day on set, we make hundreds of decisions about how to present and tell our story. No one decision makes or breaks a film, but there’s a cumulative effect that results in a film that looks and feels the way we envisioned it,” added Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins in a statement. “As a filmmaker, I want to see…and think viewers want to see…that vision carried through to every possible viewing environment. Filmmaker Mode makes it possible for all those choices to be seen in the home.”
While 4K Ultra HD televisions have become commonplace in the United States at Best Buy, Walmart and Target, among other retailers, global adoption of the new high-definition format is still picking up speed, according to new data from IHS Markit.
The London-based research firm cited declining prices for big-screen TV driving wider consumer adoption. Speaking at the MIPTV confab April 8-11 in Cannes, France, Paul Gray, director research and analysis, technology, media & telecom, said there are more than 142 4K UHD channels on the market, including 49 channels in Europe.
The UHD Alliance and the Blu-ray Disc Association were at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas to tout the success of the 4K Ultra HD format and new promotional efforts.
The UHD Alliance currently has 43 members — comprised of electronics manufacturers, film and television studios, content distributors, and technology companies — with such companies as Charter Communications and Google joining last year to better understand how to deliver high dynamic range (HDR) content, said UHDA president Mike Fidler.
“Google of course brought out the Pixel 3 and that is a certified Mobile HDR Premium product,” he said.
The group also continues to certify products as Ultra HD Premium, with 46 new products added in 2018 to bring the total to 63 products (TVs, computer monitors, mobile devices and Ultra HD Blu-ray Players) and 10 companies offering certified products. The UHDA has also offered new broadcast recommendations to facilitate broadcast of Ultra HD Premium certified content.
The group continues to educate at such events as IFA, the 4K Summit, MWC, CEDIA and, of course, CES.
“We’re out at trade shows on an ongoing basis,” Fidler said.
Its educational website, ExperienceUHD.com, which launched in 2017, has been upgraded in the past year. It offers “how to” home theater set up information; educational information on HDR, 4K resolution, wider color spectrum, color bit depth and immersive audio; and social media links. Its biggest reach is with Millennials and Generation Z, according to Fidler.
Educational information on interoperability of different products went up on the site in October 2018.
“We are spending considerable resources,” Fidler said, to identify interoperability problems and offer steps on the website to fix them. The UHDA buys product at retail to test.
For instance, the website shows consumers how to set up TVs with screen shots of menus.
“It’s been really popular from a usage standpoint,” Fidler said, adding that every year the menus change “so we continue to do this.”
Sometime in the first quarter, the UHDA plans to put test patterns on the sight to help consumers see if they are getting true HDR.
The UHDA collaborated with Amazon on a section of the online behemoth’s site — which also offers a link to ExperienceUHD.com — to better educate consumers about the format. That product launched in August 2018.
“Other retailers have gotten in touch with us recently [about helping with sites],” Fidler said.
The group also unveiled a dynamic typograph asset at CES (developed in collaboration with the Digital Entertainment Group Europe), available for retailers and partners.
The UHDA is expanding its efforts into Europe, especially Germany, France and the United Kingdom, Fidler said.
In another initiative, the UHDA surveyed the creative community, getting close to 400 responses from cinematographers, colorists, directors, digital imaging specialists, editors, producers, VFX supervisors, writers and others on their preferences for and the importance of the format. The effort was recognized at the fall 4K UHD summit. In the survey, 86.1% answered “Most Important” to the question: “How important is it to you to have a simple way to get your home TV setup similar to monitors in the color grading suite for viewing content that YOU created?”
Actor Tom Cruise’s recent Twitter missive about motion smoothing was inspired by the survey, Fidler said.
Meanwhile, the 4K UHD market continues to grow with all 55-inch and larger panels available in UHD only and 100% of 50-inch and larger TV shipments expected to be in the format by the end of this year, according to IHS Markit data cited by the UHDA.
On the content side, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) noted that Ultra HD Blu-ray, both hardware and software, experiencing approximately 40% and 60% growth, respectively, in 2018, with catalog, local/regional and episodic TV titles increasingly joining new release theatricals on the format.
Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales for 2018 are expected to surpass 2017 by 44%, and growth of another 30% is anticipated for 2019, according to Futuresource data cited by the BDA. Meanwhile, 15% of all Blu-ray players shipped worldwide in 2018 are expected to be Ultra HD Blu-ray, with 25% projected in 2019 (excluding Xbox One sales), according to data cited by the BDA. The worldwide UHD Blu-ray player installed base is expected to reach 4.5 million by the end of 2018. As of December 2018, there were 29 4K UHD BD player models and 11 4K UHD recorder/player models for a total of 40, according to the BDA.
Global 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray sales continue to grow steadily, with an 83% increase in 2018 vs. 2017, and a further growth of 45% forecast for 2019, according to the BDA. Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to account for 11% of Blu-rays sold worldwide in 2018, rising to 22% by 2020 and 40% by 2022, according to the BDA.
About 430 4K UHD Blu-ray titles were available in the United States by the end of 2018, the BDA reported, with such notable recent catalog releases as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and such episodic TV releases as “Game of Thrones,” “Planet Earth 2” and “Dr. Who: Twice Upon a Time.”
BDA president Victor Matsuda was especially impressed with Lionsgate’s decision to release Twilight, which skews to a younger audience, on 4K UHD Blu-ray.
“Recognizing the business possibilities in reissuing that type of title was really encouraging,” he said.
With streaming 4K UHD still dependent on the pipeline to the home (Netflix recommends 25Mbps for 4K), the fact that most users’ service is less robust makes the physical disc more compelling, he said. Only 21% in the U.S. manage to meet the Netflix standard, while such European countries as Germany, France and the United Kingdom manage even less of a percentage.
To tout the benefits of 4K UHD Blu-ray, the BDA also unveiled a sizzle reel at CES for members.
The number of homes worldwide using an Ultra HD TV has now passed the 200 million mark, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics’ Connected Home Devices service.
The report, 4K and 8K Ultra HDTV Global Market Forecast, predicts that 222 million homes will own an Ultra HD TV by the end of 2018, an increase of nearly 50% over the past twelve months. The report also forecasts that more than 600 million homes will own an Ultra HD TV by 2023. The vast majority of these homes will have a 4K display — only 3% of Ultra HD TVs in use will be 8K-ready by this time.
Other key findings from the report include:
North America will continue to lead in adoption of Ultra HD TVs, with 71% of homes owning one by 2023;
The largest market in terms of annual sales of Ultra HD TVs is the Asia Pacific region, where they will reach nearly 46 million units this year;
Sales of 8K Ultra HDTVs will reach more than 400,000 units in 2019 and more than 11 million by 2023, which will represent a 6% share of the total Ultra HD TV market; and
By 2023 3.9% of Ultra HDTV homes in North America will own 8K displays, compared to 4.1% in Asia Pacific and 1.7% in Western Europe.
“The success of Ultra HDTV has been driven by technology adoption rather than content and services,” said David Mercer, principal analyst and the report’s author, in a statement. “4K video and TV services are now becoming more widely available, meeting the expectations of 4K Ultra HDTV owners for the best quality TV experience. But our expectations for 8K services should be cautious: while Japan has now launched 8K TV in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the rest of the world will be slower to follow suit, given that the number of homes with 8K-ready TVs will remain low until the mid 2020s.”
“Owners of 8K TVs will primarily be watching 4K and HD content, while the TV’s image processors will do a good job of scaling most content to give impressive images,” said David Watkins, director at Strategy Analytics, in a statement. “Amidst the excitement surrounding 8K TVs, it is important to remember that image resolution, whether native or otherwise, is only one element in perceived video quality, and TV vendors and content players alike should not lose focus on other important drivers of consumer satisfaction, such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) and High Frame Rate (HFR).”
Size matters when it comes to high-definition televisions.
Despite flat TV shipments in the most-recent fiscal period, the average TV unit-shipment screen size increased more than any previous quarter in the past year.
Global shipments of 60-inch and larger TV screen sizes increased more than 40% year-over-year, with even stronger growth in North America and emerging markets, as prices fell to new lows for 65-inch and 75-inch units, according to new data from IHS Markit. The growth rate is more than 10% higher than in recent quarters.
While promotions for the World Cup raised TV unit sales more than 7% in the first half of the year, Western Europe, Latin America, and Middle East and Africa all experienced double-digit TV shipment year-over-year declines in the third quarter.
“Each year during the holiday shopping season, brands and retailers try to push ever larger screen sizes to keep revenue growing and encourage adoption of value-added features like 4K and smart TV,” Paul Gagnon, research and analysis executive director, IHS Markit, said in a statement.
“This year, there’s higher interest in 65-inch 4K TVs for many of the key promotional deals, leading to less focus on smaller screen sizes under 50 inches.”
IHS said expanding screen sizes bodes well for sales of 4K units. In fact, the share of 4K TV shipments in Q3 reached a record high of nearly 44%. Due to sustained premiums and larger average size, 4K TV made up more than 71% of all TV revenue during the quarter.
Prices of 65-inch 4K LCD TVs fell to an average of $1,110 in North America during the quarter, from $1,256 in the previous quarter. In China, the average price of 65-inch TVs was even lower – just $928, after already falling below $1,000 in the second quarter. Xiaomi and other brands have aggressively pushed prices lower as competition intensifies in China. In other regions, prices were considerably higher for 65-inch 4K TVs, due to less intense retail competition and a smaller addressable market.
LCD TV shipments increased by 14%, quarter over quarter. Quantum dot LCD TV shipments rose to 663,000 units in the quarter, with an average size exceeding 60-inches. The average size of OLED TVs increased to more than 59 inches for the first time, as the 65-inch shipments share grew to a new high of more than 38%.