Can consumer electronics manufacturers drive demand for 8K content delivery? We’re about to find out. Both Samsung and LG showed up at IFA 2018 in Berlin, Germany, with 88-inch and 85-inch 8K consumer TV sets in tow.
When they launch later this year, neither of those will be the first 8K TV — that honor goes to a 70-inch unit from Sharp that debuted last year in Asia, where the push to broadcast 8K content, led by Japanese broadcaster NHK, has been more urgent than in North America. NHK intends to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 8K with 22.2 channel surround sound; even before that, it intends to launch an 8K satellite channel, BS8K, broadcasting more than 12 hours a day beginning December 1.
Stateside, many consumers struggled to find even 4K viewing options for major events like this summer’s World Cup. That means Samsung and LG are stuck promoting their TVs’ ability to upscale lower-resolution pictures to 8K.
No doubt TV vendors would love for buzz around their latest offerings to drive conversations at IBC, but it’ll take some time before 8K gives them any leverage at all. The Consumer Technology Association estimates 4K UHD TVs are now in 31% of U.S. households, but even that number hasn’t been enough to make broadcasters clamor for ways to deliver 4K content to consumers, and it’ll be several years yet before 8K gets anywhere near that kind of foothold in the market.
Here in the U.S., where 8K is not even part of the conversation, broadcasters are very slowly getting on board with the transition to ATSC 3.0, the next-gen standard for terrestrial broadcasting. It’s worth noting that ATSC 3.0 supports broadcasting 4K at up to 120fps with wide color gamut — but not 8K.
If you’re rooting for 8K, pay attention to news about video compression at IBC. A new, higher-resolution picture format generally demands a new, more efficient video codec, so keep an eye out for the emerging H.266 standard, which is expected to enable 8K by supporting video resolution up to 8192 x 4320p at 120fps along with the typically demanded 50% gain in efficiency over today’s H.265 compression. Just to give you an idea of the timeline we’re looking at, it isn’t due to be finished until the end of 2020. Also watch for any competition from a potential revision to AV1, the just-finished royalty-free codec developed by the Alliance for Open Media.