The broadcasting industry is gearing up for the ‘next big thing’, and well beyond today’s 3D, ‘smart’ TVs and HDTV. With the giant IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin now underway, and just days away from IBC, the professional end of the broadcasting industry, the talk is all about Ultra-HDTV. We expect the first announcements regarding future 4K transmissions to be made this coming week, at IBC.

The high-end set manufacturers (Sony, Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Toshiba) all have 4K units on show, and there’s a growing amount of 4K-for-TV experimental footage now emerging (view online HERE). Hollywood, of course, has been 4K for years. Incidentally, IFA also has plenty of 8K displays on show and achieving retina-matching qualities. LG and Sony have both made commitments to put their 4K sets on sale this side of Christmas – albeit at eye watering prices!

Last month’s Olympics also saw some very demanding ‘full’ Ultra-HD tests take place from the Olympic Park, with 8,000-line (8K) transmissions beamed to special viewing sites in the UK, Japan and the USA. Audience reaction was highly positive.

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK has been spearheading the move towards this next-generation transmission system and has invested considerably in the technology (and has achieved some notable patents in the process).

However, despite the success of these 8K transmissions it is probable that the first step for broadcasters and consumers will be 4K resolution (which is in effect 3840 x 2160 pixels for home viewing) display, and can be compressed efficiently by the new HVEC/H.265 compression algorithms. Ericsson has just unveiled its first H.265 professional encoder targeting the telco and second screen market.

Satellite operators such as SES already have plans for 4K (and 8K if needed), and its playout arm (SES Platform Services, SPS) is also planning for 4K. Same with the set-top box industry. Pace, for example, says it is fully-prepared for 4K/H.265 demands. Now all the industry needs is a couple of years to start assembling programming – other than movies. Our guess? Sport, sport and more sport will be the early 4K driver for pay-TV fans. Other ‘event-led’ TV will fill in the gaps.

And my best guess? Four years away, the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games could prove to be a real motivator for set sales and compelling content. Make a diary date now.