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Why the Ultra-HD Video Ecosystem will Grow Slowly

To be totally honest, the introduction of 3D television was an anticlimax. Moreover, the initial forecasts for the upcoming adoption of 4K or Ultra-HD video were overly optimistic.

While 4K will ultimately reach the mainstream consumer, it will remain a small niche market for at least another five years, with widespread viewing of 4K content arriving around 2019, according to the latest market study by TDG Research..

TDG says that short-term viewership of 4K video will be mostly driven by consumer purchases of new smart TVs with 4K functionality.

However, the adoption of 4K televisions will occur more slowly than many believe due to poor consumer awareness, high prices, and lack of 4K video content.

That being said, the emergence of 4K-enabled devices will help to fill this gap, over time.

For example, TDG predicts that set top boxes (iSTBs) from companies like Amazon, Apple, and Roku will join smart TVs in supporting 4K streaming from over-the-top (OTT) streaming video services.

"This will create a halo effect around broadband video quality and provide a strong differentiator for OTT services such as Netflix and Amazon," said Joel Espelien, senior adviser at TDG Research. "This will be a valuable tool in re-calibrating consumer perceptions of video quality and reinforcing the value proposition of broadband streaming services."

According to TDG, iSTBs and Blu-ray players will each account for almost one-fifth of total 4K video viewing in 2017.

While physical discs will enjoy only short-term success, the use of 4K iSTBs will be propelled to even greater heights due to several factors -- including support from the Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft; a 1-2 year replacement cycle (versus 7-8 years for TVs); and a sub-$100 price when they finally arrive in market.

As such, 4K iSTB adoption will remain strong throughout the forecast period and surpass 4K smart TVs to become the single most-important platform used to view 4K video aside from legacy pay-TV operator STBs.

While OTT streaming video will be the most notable short-term driver of 4K video, pay-TV operators will also play a defining role. Beginning with on-demand 4K offerings, pay-TV operators will slowly add live 4K support as the ecosystem matures.

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