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4K pioneers wait on platform carriage

The reticence of pay-TV platforms to commit to carrying nascent 4K UHD services is leading to programming pioneers to turn to OTT delivery as they wait for operators to refine their business models, according to panellists in the ‘Here Come the UHD Channels’ session in the Sony 4K Ultra HD theatre at MIPCOM.

Rian Bester, CEO of INsight TV suggested that “bandwidth and boxes” was one of the biggest constraints on service deployment. “We’re increasingly looking at the digital avenue to push Ultra HD to our consumers,” he advised. “There, you don’t face those same constraints.”

Kelly Holland, CEO of Penthouse Global Media, said the company’s core demographic was Millennials. “Always the early adopters,” she observed, adding that it made sense both strategically and philosophically that Penthouse pursue new technology. “So it was natural that we got into UHD.”

“We are prepared to launch a channel,” she said, noting that Penthouse already had a “deep library” of material in UHD. “However, as we all know, there is a supply chain that starts with content production, which we’ve been very successful at, and ends with the desire for consumers to see that content and manufacturers have been very proactive and aggressive about pushing flat screens into the market, my challenge is platforms. They have the challenge of transponder space and upgrading the technology in their playout and contribution services. So, we see the natural solution to this is to go to digital delivery.”

“We’re in the midst of doing that,” she advised, suggesting that in Q1 2017, Penthouse would have some streaming services for its UHD content. “We’ve actually kind of held back on that,” she admitted, suggesting that Penthouse was more interested in launching UHD into a broadcast package platform.”

She said that OTT puts so much control into a studio’s hands. “It gives us the ability to deliver UHD. It also gives us the ability to deliver VR, which is not a traditional broadcast product. So I’m very excited about OTT.”

She noted that platforms were investing in transponder space to put UHD channels up, but these tended to be aggregated compilations, which players such as Sky had done with 3D. “I don’t work in that compilation space, so I have to go it alone. We began to discuss UHD with our platforms in April. We’ve rolled it out in a bigger way at this show, but the big platforms say: ‘Frankly, an adult channel is not the first to roll out; it’s going to be a sports channel’. So, we’re waiting, but in the meantime, I can’t wait for the platforms to make that commitment.”

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