Here in the United States, when high-definition television sets were first introduced in the marketplace there was a very limited supply of HD video content available. Moreover, even today, most American pay-TV service providers still offer a modest amount of HD-quality live broadcast or archived video content.
Ironically, if you're interested in access to an abundance of better quality high resolution video content, streaming it from the Internet (as an example, via HBO GO) or using a Blu-ray disc player is still the best approach for HDTV owners. So, what's the overall market outlook?
According to the latest market study by ABI Research, 4K or Ultra HD is the future -- but it's going to be a market development marathon, not a sprint to higher resolutions.
And, while 1080p TV screens are the norm and mobile screen resolutions continue to climb, plenty of streamed HD content is still distributed in 720p or lower.
Over-the-top (OTT) video entertainment services such as Netflix, VUDU, and M-GO, which exclusively distribute content over the Internet, are more eager to embrace 1080p and Ultra HD for connected consumer electronics devices.
Meanwhile, traditional pay-TV distributors are more likely to settle for 720p for their "TV Everywhere" offering, as they consider smartphones and tablets the primary targets -- continuing to leverage existing pay-TV service infrastructure as their main distribution channel for TVs.
OTT operators, likewise, typically favor lower resolutions for mobile devices.
"We expect pay-TV operators will seriously consider 4K movie services over IP connections directly to smart TVs, bypassing the set-top box. This will allow them to compete with OTT providers on feature set before rolling out 4K capable set-top boxes in 2015 to 2017," said Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI Research.
With the TV Everywhere household user base forecast to expand from 4 percent worldwide in 2013 to over 20 percent by 2019, a number of consumers will be ready for these services.
ABI believes that TV manufacturers, such as Samsung and Sony, are doing everything in their power to seed the market with 4K content and services in order to convince consumers to purchase higher priced and higher margin 4K TV sets.
Sony, with its motion picture division, is in a good position and has released a significant amount of remastered content on a download-based movie player. Meanwhile, Samsung in a similar fashion offered early adopters a free USB HDD with two full-length 4K videos and additional 4K clips.