It is perhaps the biggest spectacle in sport in one of the most iconic venues for football. The 2013 Fifa World Cup final, to be played in July 2014 in Brazil is set to be broadcast in 4K resolution for the very first time. As mainstream events start to broadcast the Ultra HD 4K format, is now the right time to buy a 4K TV?
4K Verses 3D
4K is the future of television. Its arrival has served as the death nail for the fumbled 3D revolution. 3D had been proven adept in the cinema, where huge budget movies had been carefully choreographed in order to illicit the maximum value from the format, but it worked far less spectacularly in the home. 4K on the other hand is more scalable, infinitely easier to record in and produces a more stunning and immersive ‘general viewing’ TV experience.
So it was with these virtues in mind that the recent Confederations cup football was broadcast in 4K. Fifa, footballs governing body, saw this as a lower key but important testing ground for the broadcast technology. Its successful trial has paved the way for Brazil 2014, and for the World Cup final to be delivered in this format.
Read: Retailers lining up big 4K TV price cuts
Sony – who are heavily involved in the world cup as sponsors, see the opportunity to tap into the unprecedented reach of the World Cup final in order to showcase their tech. World Cups are also famed in the consumer technology market as unprecedented shifters of new TVs, hence the sheer volume of special offers that the leading retailers will run around TV sets next summer.
The TV sets that companies like Sony want to push their retail outlets to shift? 4K TV sets. Therefore a World Cup final showpiece becomes the ultimate consumer carrot, at a time when consumers are wary in the TV space.
Read: Should i buy a 3D TV?
Many invested heavily in 3D TVs and now feel somewhat burned. The 3D revolution never materialised – at least not in the home – where companies like Sky and the BBC failed to invest in the technology. As we approach the autumn of 2013, Sky 3D is the only mainstream 3D TV station left on the UK’s main satellite platform. The BBC have announced plans to withdraw 3D from later this year, with Doctor Who scheduled to be its final 3D broadcast and Sky have withdrawn their 3D sports coverage in a more cloak and dagger way. In Sky Sports case, they simply stopped talking about it and then stopped broadcasting it.
So naturally consumers are wary. Is 4K set to be ‘another 3D’ where the broadcasters enthusiasm is spiked only to fall away quickly? Could the 2014 World Cup final be the Avatar moment for 4K? Avatar, the second highest grossing movie in history, brought huge attention on the 3D format and what it could deliver. It meant that people immediately got behind the format and everybody seemingly wanted a 3D TV.
The importance of broadcasters
Sony are rapidly becoming the flag-bearers for the entire movement, not least because they have invested more into it then anybody else. The problem is, they;re running into apathy from the broadcasters, who are concerned about the lack of take-up of the format by general consumers. Whats the point broadcasting in 4k if nobody has a 4K TV set?
Its a line of enquiry that Sony’s Katsunori Yamanouchi attacked full on during the World Cup 2014 4K announcement, where he asked the broadcasters directly “Why should you invest now in 4K when viewers don’t have 4K TVs?
Yamanouchi’s answer for them was compelling – and perhaps offers the simplest indication yet that the time is coming to buy a 4K TV: Simply put, broadcasters can take the 4K off-shoots and broadcast them in regular HD.
Thats critical because HD is commonly available in most peoples homes. Therefore, Yamanouchi has just found a way to make mass 4K production scalable and economically viable. This is a compelling step forward and one that means that 4K is viable and ready to start being sold.
What does this mean? Sony have produced a roadmap for 4K Ultra-HD to become mainstream within the next 24 months.
This sentiment is echoed by Chris Cookson, who heads up tech at Sony Pictures. He said:
“I think once the larger sized screens are available in 4K then it will be as hard to find a 1080p large display as it is today a 720p large screen, which just a few years ago was the standard for what we classed as Hi-def. It’s exciting times,”
And those TV sets are coming. Just look at Sharp’s latest TV announcement – the Aquos LC-90LE757, a mega 90 inch 4K Ultra HD TV for the UK and European market. Others are following, and 4K sets are getting pushed more forcibly in outlets like Currys and Dixons now.
Should I buy a 4K TV now?
So the revolution is coming, but the timing may still not be perfect. Early adopters are lining up their 4k sets now for sure, but for the mass market, the ideal time may be around the 2014 World Cup in the summer of 2014.
For now, commercial 4K broadcasts remain thin on the grounds, and the lack of 4K TV penetration within UK households means that you’re not missing out on much 4K TV viewing at the moment. As we said earlier, the broadcasters are making sure of that.
Whilst 4K can scale up regular HD, there remains little real world benefit, so thats not a compelling enough argument to get your cheque book out yet, in our opinion at least.
Our best advice, a BurnTech.TV top tip if you will, is to wait for the Brazilian World Cup and to capitalise on the big push that Sony will lead then. 4K is coming, but lets not jump the gun like we did with 3D.
This is just our take though, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.