MLB, Samsung, Comcast execs outline obstacles to 4K - but remain optimistic on future

LAS VEGAS--According to top executives in the space, the wave of 4K technology in the pay-TV market is rising--and it likely will become a standard feature in the next few years--but there remain a number of obstacles for the technology to overcome in the near term.

Joe Inzerillo, EVP and CTO of MLB Advanced Media, said that most sporting events are not yet broadcasting in 4K technology--but he said that will likely change in the coming years. In comments here at the FierceCable event, "The Roadmap to 4K/Ultra HD Readiness: How to Plan For Tomorrow's Resolution Standard" held in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show, Inzerillo added that MLB fans are beginning to become aware of the technology and are beginning to ask for it.

But Inzerillo said that broadcasting sports in 4K is a challenge due to the complexities of encoding and delivering the technology.

Ty Ahmad-Taylor, head of smart TV services for Samsung, agreed that there remain a range of problems to implementing 4K technology. For big-budget movies specifically, he said that "the actual rendering costs for 4K are prohibitive." He noted that the cost of rendering special effects in 4K is so expensive that some movie studios are shying away from doing so--at least for now. "It's both a cost issue and a workflow issue," he said.

Mark Francisco, a fellow for premises technologies at Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), added that consumers may have difficulty with the wide range of technologies in the pay-TV space, which could complicate 4K sales. "There's a lot of confusion about what those things mean," he said, pointing to technologies ranging from HD to Ultra HD to 4K. Further, he said that color, frame rate and audio details are just as important as the resolution, making the situation for consumers that much more confusion.

"3D was such a disaster," MLB's Inzerillo added, pointing to the flame-out of 3D TV sales. "There are some folks on the consumer side who feel a little burned by that."

Nonetheless, speakers on the panel agreed that 4K technology is rapidly gaining traction and will likely become a standard feature for most devices, from TVs to tablets to smartphones. And when 4K becomes standard, they said, industry players will be able to take advantage of the situation.

For example, Inzerillo said that MLB will be able to display more graphics and digital elements in its baseball broadcasts thanks to 4K, which likely will please MLB fans. "Imagine what you can do when you move to higher resolution," he noted.

Comcast's Francisco added that the barrier to 4K content creation is relatively low, since mobile phones and other devices are already available that allow users to create 4K video. He also said that "you're really adding no incremental bandwidth requirements" when delivering 4K content, since the bandwidth requirements for 4K are roughly the same as current HD content.

And, Francisco said, Comcast's customers are beginning to ask for 4K content, and the company's competitors are beginning to offer it. "All of those (factors) motivate us," he said.

Related Articles:
Ready or not, 4K is coming ... and you need a roadmap
Awareness of 4K up to 57%, Strategy Analytics says
4K TV shipments spiked 500% in Q3 to 3M, DisplaySearch says