While the technical side of the industry concentrates on NAB, the creative side has its own jamboree in Cannes at MIPTV. Unsurprisingly, 4K was big news there too, with satellite operator SES choosing the event to launch its Ultra HD Experience initiative.
The likes of SES are crucial in getting 4K out of the production environment and into the home and the company is bullish about the prospects of doing that sooner rather than later. Hence the initiative, which invites content providers and broadcasters to work with SES to support the development of the Ultra HD value chain.
"The challenge for broadcasters is to access content in Ultra HD," said Norbert Hoelzle, Senior Vice President Commercial Europe at SES. "As satellite is the most suitable infrastructure to deliver high resolution pictures to large audiences, SES is well-positioned to support content providers and broadcasters in testing their Ultra HD footage and distributing their content before Ultra HD becomes a commercial reality in the next few years."
The SES Ultra HD Experience initiative basically invites content producers and broadcasters from all over the world to submit footage shot in Ultra HD via a dedicated SES web page, essentially giving them the opportunity to broadcast and test their content via an SES satellite.
"If you have the content, we have the facilities," says the company. Which of course highlights the fact that it needs free content to advertise and drive take-up of its services, but given that content producers also need eyeballs to watch their stuff, it's approaching a win-win for all sides, especially at this stage of the game.
Industry consensus builds
SES is a big player in the market - it reaches 276 million homes worldwide and transmits more than 1400 HD TV channels – but speaking at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington back in March, the CEOs of *all* the world's major satellite operators - Eutelsat, Intelsat, Telesat and SES too - all agreed that 4k is coming and will become a major driver in satellite demand.Indeed, the only real area of disagreement between the companies was not if but when the market will take off, with the earliest estimates being as soon as 2015.
SES Astra CEO, Romain Bausch, also added that there would be far more and far better content at launch than there ever was for the HD services that were so slow to roll out, partly due to the improvements in upscaling technology. “With today’s processing capabilities, when you watch the scaling up of native HD content into Ultra HD it is already a very good experience," he said, quoted in Broadband TV News.
Either way, it's looking increasingly likely that there will definitely be 4k broadcast services by satellite launched in advance of the World Cup in Rio in July 2016. The likes of Netflix better make the most of whatever window of exclusivity they think they have, as the competition is coming and it's coming fast.