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July 5, 2013
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Samsung predicts UHD will be mainstream by 2017

Samsung Electronics is working on the basis of a viable starter mass-market for Ultra HD in 2017 in Europe. At Futuresource Entertainment Summit yesterday, Vassilis Seferidis, Director of European Business Development, Samsung, cited consumer demand for ever-larger screens as the main driver behind the future uptake of the format, given that bigger screens will need better pictures. He told the London audience that platform operators as well as television set makers need something to differentiate themselves when HDTV becomes commonplace.

Seferidis provided graphs showing the penetration of HD television sets in various European markets when Pay TV operators first launched HDTV into those territories. The trigger point was when around 5% of homes had an HD-capable set. He thinks the ability to upscale HD efficiently on new, larger screens, will encourage the uptake of the new generation of displays in anticipation of the UHD content arriving in volume.  “We expect UHD to become mainstream by 2017,” he confirmed.

Seferidis was challenged about the key assertion that the development of UHD is consumer-driven. He was adamant: “There is consumer demand. Consumers are looking for bigger screens and as you go to bigger screens HD has limitations.” The response to Samsung’s UHD launch in Europe four weeks ago has been very positive, even without any 4k (UHD) content in the market, he reported. “The demand is here.”

Samsung had a UHD demonstration at ANGA in June, showing a loop of content including views across mountains and it was breathtaking. Ironically you get a deeper sense of ‘being there’ than you do with 3D.

UHD has some fundamental advantages over 3D as a format, namely everyone will be able to enjoy it (and not everyone enjoys watching 3D and some people, because of the way their eyes work, just do not register the virtual-depth) and it requires less adjustments to how television is filmed.

Some doubt UHD can ever become another HDTV though, because bigger flat screens are not practical in all homes.  Bob Zitter, the former EVP and CTO at HBO, is among them. On the eve of his retirement in March he estimated that only 25-30% of U.S. homes have the space for a 60+ inch TV, and made an often-heard assertion that the difference in picture quality between HDTV and 4K can only be seen if you have a television that large.