4K or Ultra HD is the future, but it’s a 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) 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 CE devices in order to appear more innovative, according to ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com).
Meanwhile, traditional distributors, with regards to TV Everywhere content, are more likely to settle for 720p as they consider smartphones and tablets the primary targets; continuing to leverage existing Pay TV services as their "main" distribution channel for TVs – OTT operators likewise favor lower resolutions for mobile devices.
OTT (over-the-top) streamer shipments are forecast to rise 54% in 2014, reflecting strong demand for affordable delivery of OTT content on TV screens, according to the research group. Over-the-top content (OTT) refers to delivery of audio, video, and other media over the Internet without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content.
Consumers can access OTT content through Internet-connected devices such as desktop and laptop computers, gaming consoles (such as the PlayStation 4, WiiU, and Xbox One), set-top boxes (such as the Apple TV and Roku), smartphones (including iPhones, Android phones, and Windows phones), smart TVs (such as the Google TV), and tablets such as the iPad.
"We expect Pay TV operators will seriously consider 4K movie services over IP connections directly to smart TVs, bypassing the set-top box," says ABI Research Senior analyst Michael Inouye. "This will allow them to compete with OTT providers on feature set before rolling out 4K capable set-top boxes in 2015 to 2017. With the TV Everywhere household user base expanding from 4% (worldwide) in 2013 to over 20% by 2019, a number of consumers will be ready for these services."
Practice director Sam Rosen adds: "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."