4K UHD Blu-ray is benefitting from the disjointed approach of digital distribution platforms, but despite strong 4K hardware growth UHD is still some way off mass market adoption. That’s the finding of market analyst Futuresource Consulting. Its latest tracking report suggests that UHD as a home entertainment format “has firmly planted its stake in the market; from software to hardware adoption” with “strong growth evident.”

Futuresource Consulting have been monitoring the 4K UHD market for over two years.

According to figures, UHD Blu-ray built a leading position in the software market in 2016, with sales elevated by disjointed digital service providers. Limited availability and marketing of content, as well as poorer quality of playback compared to UHD Blu-ray, are cited as reasons for growth.

UHD Blu-ray currently offers the highest quality 4K experience and a greater choice of films.

Futuresource is predicting 8.4 million UHD Blu-ray discs will be sold in 2017, equating to 4 per cent of global Blu-ray sales, with a greater choice of titles from both independents and major studios. However it suggests that the potential launch of a 4K store from Apple, to support the 4K-capable Apple TV streamer, could be a key game changer in the mass market march for Ultra HD availability.

At the end of 2016 Futuresource reports that globally 17 million households had access to streamed 4K UHD content from an OTT/SVoD service with a TV capable of playing it.

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Futuresource recorded twelve months of strong progression across all Ultra HD hardware markets, particularly 4K UHD TVs which were a fixture of the 2016 Black Friday promotions. However, many of the sets on offer had either none or a poor quality/early development of HDR. The focus from the industry is now firmly on HDR, it says.

“Unlike the upgrade to UHD resolution, which was a quantifiable improvement, HDR is subjective feature and CES highlighted this is the key industry focus as manufacturers are continuing to push the boundaries in terms of peak brightness, peak black levels and a wider colour spectrum represented,” says Market Analyst Tristan Veale.

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However abuse of HDR labeling could derail the gravy train, he adds. “Consumers remain largely uneducated about the advantages of HDR and there is a risk of alienating them due to the recent trend of branding displays HDR compatible, ones which can receive an HDR content stream but cannot reproduce it. With this multi-stage introduction of UHD and associated picture improvements, clear information to the consumer is paramount.”


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