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Sports Streams Jump to 4K, But Consumers Need to Catch Up: Video

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Troy Dreier: Hi. This is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media East 2016. I'm having short conversations with some of the thought leaders of the online video industry. Joining me right now is Chris Wagner, executive vice president and co-founder of NeuLion. Welcome.

Chris Wagner: Thank you, Troy.

Troy Dreier: Chris was here today talking about ultra HD. We see so much excitement about it, but what's really driving interest in ultra high definition?

Chris Wagner: I think it's the experience. I'm an older guy, can remember the move from standard definition into HD. Once you move to HD, did you really want to go back? The same thing is happening with ultra HD. The experience, the frame ... you're talking 4 times the quality of 1080, twice the frame rate. I think standard television is 1080p, 30 frames. To get a little technical, got 4,000 pixels, so it's 4 times 1080 and it's double the frame rate.

For sports, we have all this experience of being in an arena or being in a stadium when you watch live sports, and I think, and from what my eye sees when you see a 4K live sporting event, I get the sense that I'm in the arena. The picture quality is pretty significant. The detail around the field of play, the audience, the sponsors, the sound. I mean, it's all just very cool. I think it's what's driving Ultra HD and all the UHD TV shipments, which continue to grow pretty significantly, is the experience. Sports is a passion a lot of fans have, and it's all about the experience.

Troy Dreier: You say sports is one of the big content drivers?

Chris Wagner: I think so. When we talk to our customers about 4K, many of them are planning 4K events for this year. We've already done 4. We did a big match out of Barcelona for the El Clasico game. We've worked with BET sports on two 4K events, Univision here in the United States on 4K. If you're a UFC fan and you have the opportunity to watch UFC in the Octagon 4 times the quality of 1080 for a live fight, you're going to watch that because it's pretty cool.

Troy Dreier: Now, you're in the Ultra HD Alliance, right, your company is?

Chris Wagner: Right. Correct.

Troy Dreier: What is the Alliance doing to make sure that ultra HD about more than just pixels?

Chris Wagner: The Alliance has a number of things. Other Alliance members including NeuLion, will be Dolby, Sony. It's the formation of standards, so that when you buy a TV at a Best Buy or another retailer, which by the way, 4K TVs you can get for 800 bucks now, so-

Troy Dreier: Yeah, coming down.

Chris Wagner: The price points are coming down nicely. What the Alliance drives is an assurance that when the consumer watches that 4K picture on that 4K set, that all of us worked together around some standards that we can enforce quality because quality is important, and it's an expectation, we want ... the consumer they have when they buy that set. When they get home and plug it in, we want to make sure that they're feeling good about it.

Troy Dreier: I wonder sometimes if we're getting ahead of bandwidth with 4K. I mean, it has to stream. That's the only way we can get it now, but how many people have strong enough bandwidth to receive it?

Chris Wagner: Most of the live streaming today is done in 720p, so if you look at all the live streaming companies that you have here, they average between 3 to 5 megabits for a non-4K stream. When you go to 4K, it's 18 to 20 megabits, so you're talking 5 to 6 times more broadband. With that said, I'm a Cablevision guy on Long Island, and I just upgraded my Cablevision service from 5 megabits to 40 megabits for an extra $10.

The pipes are there. Cable companies are really turning into internet companies unless you own rights like Comcast or Time Warner, but the broadband's there. It's coming and I think the price points are there. An extra $10 for me to get 35 more megabits across my line, so 4K fits at my house, but you're right. It does require more.

Troy Dreier: That's a good investment, you think.

Chris Wagner: I think so. When I sit there, I bought the TV and I get live sports and Amazon and Netflix have 4K movies. I see the difference. People come to my house see the difference.

Troy Dreier: Very good. We'll be watching the area. Thank you, Chris, and this is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media East.

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