OTT TV, 4k UHD, and the Future of Television


4K (aka UHD TV) is making exciting moves in the market, and it looks like the first mass distribution of 4K video content will happen via OTT (over-the-top) TV. With the flexibility and maturation of OTT TV, it’s safe to say that the future of TV could rely on OTT.

What are 4K UHD and OTT TV? 

The future of television lies within OTT TV and 4K UHD. OTT TV, or Over the Top Television, refers to services such as Netflix that provide TV and other video content over an unmanaged broadband connection. Some of these services work with manufacturers to provide set-top boxes that allow users to view OTT content, and also work with other parties to protect the content. Furthermore, 4k UHD refers to a new resolution for movies and TV is are higher than that of current of HDTV.

The two are related in that the first mass distribution platform for 4K TV is not going to be broadcast or even physical media; it will be OTT TV. In other words, it is arguable that streaming innovations will drive early 4K diffusion. OTT TV is already expected to be a $10.7 billion market in North America alone. Prices for TV sets capable of playing 4K are dropping, and the television ecosystem is gearing up to support this next generation of TV. With nearly four times the pixels of 1080P HD TV, which is currently considered the “gold standard” for HD TV, there are a lot of exciting possibilities for new types of content. This is just the beginning. Going forward, technology innovations will appear first in OTT TV and ultimately, they represent the future of home video content.

What Roles Will 4K UHD and OTT TV Play in the Near Future?

4K TV faces the same issues as any other video technologies have in the past. For instance, it faces the challenge of developing a cost efficient distribution ecosystem to deliver the new technology and experiences it enables. What 4K TV faces is a more fragmented TV ecosystem than ever before. There are now five different major types of broadcast TV networks: traditional over-the-air, cable, satellite, managed IP (often referred to “telco TV”) and open broadband. Each has different strengths in different geographies.

All, except one, are similar in that they rely on specialized technology ecosystems. Even though telco TV is based on IP (Internet protocol) like open broadband, telco TV relies on specialized technologies to manage the IP connection. The one that doesn't is open broadband. Open broadband is now the dominant network type around the world and relies, both on the network and client side, on standardized commodity technologies. SDN (software-defined network) technology holds promise to drive this trend even further.

This gives open broadband a huge advantage in two ways. One is that the networking technology is available at the lowest cost. This is one key reason why OTT TV providers such as Netflix can rapidly start 4K services. They just use the same broadband infrastructure, which is constantly updated to provide increased bandwidth.

4K will not just be limited to TV sets, however, and will also apply to mobile devices, services, and content. By 2019, there could be 478 million mobile devices on the market capable of displaying 4K video, and with the proper wireless broadband infrastructure in place, OTT TV could be the best way to get 4K TV to these devices as well.

Will Cable be the First to Give In?

While over-the-air and satellite broadcast TV networks are likely to be around for the foreseeable future, it seems logical that cable and telco TV are likely to feel the pressure from OTT TV the earliest. After all, most cable providers and telcos are also broadband providers. This means they have to maintain two separate networks: a broadband Internet network and a cable or a managed IP network. They also have to support specialized client devices, usually set-top boxes, which attach to these networks. At the same time, cable networks are also under pressure to deliver their video content to mobile phones and all the other devices which consumers enjoy video on. This means they must support broadband Internet software as well.

 As these tech-savvy and increasingly wealthy consumers continue to look to the Internet for video content, they are likely to crown OTT TV as the winner in the market.