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Streaming Media East '15: Streaming 4K May Arrive in U.S. by 2020

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Despite all the hype around 4K at International CES, streaming 4K won't become a reality in the United States until at least 2020. That opinion was offered by Thomas Edwards, vice president of engineering and development at Fox Networks, during a Streaming Media East session on 4K and UHD streaming.

Fox Networks is a member of the UHD Alliance, and Edwards noted that today's average streaming speed in the U.S. is about 11Mbps. "That's not good enough for 4K," he noted. While broadcasters could achieve 4K today by streaming a degraded image, Edwards said his employer wasn't interested in that. Instead, Fox will offer 4K movie downloads through secure hardware devices that will be built into set-top boxes and TVs. These should hit the market by the end of this year. Also coming later this year are ultra-high definition Blu-ray discs that include greater luminance and an expanded color gamut. Those are touchstones of the UHD Alliance, Edwards said: Offering not just a better picture, but better pixels, as well.

Currently, the average rate to stream 4K video is between 30 and 40Mbps. Edwards expects rates to drop with better compression technologies, and for home bandwidth to rise over time. The two rates should meet around 2020, he said, an opinion that he clarified was his own and not his employer's. 4K video encoded at 15Mbps probably looks worse than HD video, he suggested.

High dynamic range (HDR) video will bring brighter brights and more detailed darks to viewers, Edwards said. Adding HDR to video will raise compression requirements by 10 or 20 percent.

While the U.S. hasn't caught up with 4K yet, Japan is already pioneering 8K video, Edwards said. NHK is doing the work, and will offer public demonstrations of 8K video in the U.S. around the FIFA Women's World Cup tournament. The tournament runs from June 6 to July 5, and the 8K demonstrations will take place in Los Angeles and New York City.


Justin Kennington of Crestron Electronics and Thomas Edwards of Fox Networks

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