Next generation video and Ultra HD TV: Perspectives on HEVC

UHD TV has emerged at the same time as a new wave of compression technology innovation to facilitate its transmission without excessively raising bandwidth costs to TV operators and broadcasters. In the same way as the development of MPEG-4 part 10H/264 transformed the economics of delivering HD services, High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVD), offering bit-rate improvements of 50% on H.264, will make delivering 4K UHD TV a more viable proposition.

Digital TV Europe, in association with Elemental, recently surveyed 160 senior industry figures from over 50 countries, including telecom, cable and DTH pay TV operators, free-to-air broadcasters and OTT service providers to share their views on the importance of different elements of 4K UHD TV, challenges to be overcome and the importance of HEVC as an element in the mix.

The survey revealed that HEVC is seen a playing an important role in enabling the delivery of TV services. Two-thirds of respondents think it will either have a transformative effect or at least a positive benefit by contributing to lower distribution costs. A minority think it will have modest impact, or little of no impact.

A similar proportion believes the impact is currently not knowable because of uncertainties around licensing terms or technical costs and benefits. Most respondents do not yet have direct expertise working with HEVC, but among those not yet using it, a majority plan to do so within the next 12 months.

4K UHD TV is seen as the format where HEVC will play the most significant role, with a particular emphasis on the use of the technology to deliver live 4K UHD TV services. Respondents believe that HEVC will play a significant role in enabling the delivery of the same number of TV channels as those currently on air but at lower cost than has previously been possible. Respondents also believe that HEVC is currently well supported by devices including smart TVs and set-top boxes.

Broadcasters and TV operators are enthusiastic about 4K UHD TV and a significant number have either launched services or plan to do so relatively soon. Respondents to the survey believe that the biggest challenges that could prevent adoption of the technology are lack of availability of content and the cost of distribution and bandwidth.

High Dynamic Range is seen as a crucial element of the 4K Ultra HD viewing experience. In fact, respondents give HDR a marginally higher average score in terms of its importance than higher resolution. HDR is seen as a technology that will primarily have a benefit in enhancing the 4K Ultra HD experience, but respondents also believe that it could beneficially be applied to improve HDTV. HEVC is seen as crucial to delivering 4K Ultra HD to viewers.

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