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Live Sport Continues to Drive 4K: IBC 2015
While the production pieces are all in place for 4K sport and other content, delivery networks are going to have to embrace UDP, multicast, and client-assisted delivery before viewing becomes commonplace

Sports will continue to be the primary driver of 4K viewing, according to the consensus of a panel at IBC yesterday called "The Business of 4K Streaming." Making it work, though, means massive changes to every step of the content delivery chain, from production through the delivery network, all the way to the end user's device.

"When you watch a 4K basketball game on a big Samsung, it's like being in the arena," said Chris Wagner, executive vice-president of market strategy for NeuLion, which sponsored the panel. "Sports fans consume content in a very unique way, with multiple angles and instant replay, sometimes watching the same content on multiple devices. The question is always 'How can we drive quality up.?' We're doing a lot of work on the consumer electronics side with television manufacturers to make sure viewers get the best possible experience."

All of the production pieces are already in place, said Hugo Gaggioni, CTO and VP of Sony Electronics, and the move to fiber has drastically reduced the weight—and cost—of broadcast trucks. But that doesn't mean it's anywhere near commoditized yet; BT Sport commissioned its own delivery truck to have complete control over what and where it could shoot in 4K, according to the Jamie Hindaugh, COO of the broadcaster, which launched its BT Sport UltraHD channel laast month and has so far delivered 4 Premiere League games in 4K.

Shooting in 4K actually calls for different production strategies, Hindaugh said. "When you're shooting Premiere League in 4K, you start having more cameras. You shoot a bit wider, pan a bit slower, and cut a bit less. Sometimes less is more, so you can get more of the flow and the feel of the game."

There's lots of work to be done on the delivery side before 4K is widely viable, said Bill Wheaton, EVP and GM of media for Akamai. "We're going to have to change the fundamental technologies," he said. "We're going to have to move from TCP to UDP. The internet today is a best-efforts network, but that won't work for broadcast. 90% uptime isn't good enough. If consumers miss that one goal, they're going to be frustrated."

Wheaton said the average bandwidth needed for a 4K 50 fps stream today is 16Gbps, and he doesn't see that dropping. "One 4K stream per Nielsen point is about the entire capacity of the internet today," he said. "We're going to have to use multicast and client-assisted delivery."

Monetization strategies are also going to change, said NeuLion's Wagner. Just as OTT services charge a higher fee for movie rentals or downloads in HD, broadcasters are going to charge more for a UHD stream of a sporting event, something we're already seeing with the UFC. We'll also continue to see increased monetization of highlights, he said, pointing to Univision's efforts during last year's World Cup to take clips and send them out on social media, each with an ad unit.

Though sporting events will continue to dominate live 4K in the near term, Hindaugh sees a demand growing for other live content in 4K. "Live events like the X Factor are group experiences that people watch together, so quality really makes a difference," he said.

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