Are You Ready for What’s Next in TV Distribution? We Are.

By Ken Takagi, Director, Media Services Innovation

This week, Intelsat will take part in a demonstration of the next cutting edge television technology, one that is just beginning to reach the market with TV sets from major manufacturers. At the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC) in Amsterdam, Intelsat is partnering with Ericsson to demonstrate the world’s first transmission of an HDR (High Dynamic Range) signal using the DVB-S2X standard. HDR technology reproduces a wider range of luminosity between the brightest and darkest pixels on a television screen. The result is that dark shadows appear darker and brighter colors appear more vibrant, giving the image a depth that is closer to the three-dimensional world we see around us. At the Ericsson booth at IBC, an HDR television will play a continuous video loop to demonstrate the technology using a Ku-band signal from the Intelsat 905 satellite. Ericsson is a leading manufacturer of the equipment used to distribute video content to cable and DTH providers. What’s exciting is that HDR has the potential to complement 4K video technology in creating an even more immersive viewing experience. The benefit of 4K is that it improves image resolution by adding more pixels to the TV screen for a sharper, more detailed image. HDR, on the other hand, improves the versatility of each pixel to show a wider variance of light and dark for each color. The two innovations combined will yield what will truly be a “wow” experience for consumers. The ideal use of the technology is thus likely to be 4K-enabled HDR TVs. But similar to 4K, upgrades to technology need to happen across the production process. And just as is happening with 4K, it will come down to HDR content, which is minimal at this stage. Media companies will be waiting for a critical mass of consumer terminals to be sold to make the business case to start production of HDR content. Each technology comes with a cost, so media companies will have a choice of upgrading to either 4K or HDR, or both. Moreover, the industry has not yet adopted an HDR standard, and while television manufacturers have started to incorporate HDR into their top-of-range TV sets, the lack of an industry standard, along with the higher prices, is going to make these early models a difficult buy for consumers. History has shown that having a single standard really helps consumer adoption to take off – witness VHS vs. Beta and Blu Ray vs. HD-DVD. Currently several companies and groups of companies are vying to establish their technology as the industry standard, and over the next year or so we will likely see these narrowed down until – hopefully – there is just one that the whole industry will embrace. Meanwhile, Intelsat is ready to support our media customers in advancing the next generation in television technologies – whether launching a UHD demo channel with Harmonic or showcasing HDR capabilities with Ericsson.

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