UHD Alliance Signs Google, Eyes Consumer Education

Five months after taking charge of the UHD Alliance as its first full-time president, longtime consumer electronics executive Mike Fidler on the eve of CES 2018 unveiled an ambitious agenda to not just grow membership, but also to increase consumer education and maximize device interoperability for a better user experience.

The push comes amid word that Google has joined the trade group, a global coalition of leading film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies seeking to promote the next-generation premium in-home entertainment platform, which offers 4K resolution as well as a mix of other features that include high dynamic range, wide color gamut, high frame rate and immersive audio, among other features.

Fidler, known in the home entertainment community for his work with Pioneer Electronics and Sony Electronics and as a founding board member of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, came to UHDA in August 2017 at a time when the group’s focus was changing. Previously, he said, the group was engaged primarily in developing UHD specifications and expanding licensing. While beefing up membership is still a goal, he said, the group is now focusing on a consumer and press engagement push in the hopes of expanding UHD’s user base beyond early adopters.

“We want to move to a new level of engagement with consumers and the press and to broaden the marketplace beyond just early adopters,” Fidler said. “In accelerating the adoption of UHD, we need these groups to understand what it is and what it does or does not do.”

The group recently launched its consumer web site, experienceuhd.com, with a list of all UHDA-certified products, links to member web sites, answers to frequently asked questions, advice on setting up home theaters, and detailed information about the features required for a device to earn UHDA certification.

“Our job is to break it down and emphasize the benefits of HDR, 4K UHD resolution, wider color spectrum, 10-bit color depth and immersive audio, Fidler said in a DEG blog posting.

Two logos, Ultra HD Premium (for TVs, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players and pre-recorded content) and Mobile HDR Premium (for laptops, tablets, phones and other battery-operated devices), promise certified products will meet or exceed strict performance levels for 4K resolution and high dynamic range, along with recommendations for immersive audio. The Ultra HD Premium and Mobile HDR Premium logos are intended to help convey that and confer a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval”-type cachet on products that carry them, says Fidler.

“One of the Alliance’s key messages to consumers will be around HDR,” Fidler said. While HDR was not part of the original 4K specification, it is an important and very visible improvement in picture quality set forth by the major studios.

Another part of the UHDA’s education program is working with retailers and manufacturers to help set expectations for consumers about what they can expect to see and what is currently available.  An abundance of content “will happen,” Fidler said in the DEG blog posting, “but not at the pace people might expect.”

While there are more than 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles in the marketplace and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon regularly make content available in 4K UHD, broadcast content availability is sparse but growing.

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