Advanced Television

MPEG-4 still only embryonic

November 14, 2013

By Chris Forrester

The planet still has some 23,182 channels broadcasting in Standard Definition. Of this total, says Northern Sky Research, 73 per cent are still transmitting in MPEG-2 or similar SD systems.  In other words, MPEG-4, a newer compression system, has yet to make any progress in some key markets.

Even amongst markets considered to be classified as ‘developed’, such as North America, Europe and the MENA region, MPEG-2 still dominates. Some 80 per cent of channels in North America are in MPEG-2, while 90 per cent of Western European channels are in MPEG-2.  Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, have about half of all channels broadcasting in MPEG-4.

The only technology which has seen any real shift towards MPEG-4 is where HD TV or 3D-TV is concerned.  “Of the 3,836 HD/3D channels carried globally, no less than 86 per cent were broadcast using MPEG-4 encoding at the end of 2012. Nearly all regions were well over 80 per cent, if not effectively 100 per cent, MPEG-4 for HD/3D content. Of course, this is not too surprising as it is the more efficient MPEG-4 encoding standard that makes HD/3D content economically viable for the video markets,” says analyst Patrick French.

He adds: “The arrival of MPEG-2 digital broadcast led to a quantum leap in the diversity of channels by making satellite broadcasting so much more cost effective. The same is true for HD/3D channel growth being directly linked to the adoption of MPEG-4, and the industry will almost certainly see a repeat of the same with Ultra HD’s ultimate success being directly linked to adoption rates of the HEVC encoding standard.

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