Climbing the Ultra HD OTT ladder

By Thierry Fautier, Past President of the Ultra HD Forum, VP Strategy at Harmonic.

I will provide in this blog some personal insights and observations on the Ultra HD OTT market, looking at it from different perspectives: services worldwide, special events, characteristics of production and distribution, devices, interop, and challenges remaining.

Introduction

We must always consider two dimensions when talking about Ultra HD services: the number of services and the number of subscribers, which we do for the Ultra HD Forum service tracker [1]. As we only know the number of services for special events but not the associated subscribers, all the numbers I will provide are related to the number of services.

Ultra HD OTT services

The Ultra HD Forum Service Tracker lists 53 Ultra HD OTT services (15 Live and 38 VOD) out of 234 total, a 22% overall share, split into 72% for VOD and 28% for linear.

The @Ultra HD 4K News has recently published a list of UHD OTT services, as summarized in the picture below.

We can count  33 OTT services, smaller than the Ultra HD Forum service tracker.

Major events

OTT is becoming a more and more critical delivery mechanism, as highlighted by these figures I extracted from the Ultra HD Forum’s newsletters on the French tennis open 2021, the Euro 2020 (played in 2021), and the 2020 one (played in 2021) & 2022 Olympics.

Of those three major events, 24% of Ultra HD services were delivered OTT, much higher than the overall market, which was 18% for linear services. Considering that some of the content was also available in catch-up, I get close to the overall Live + VOD percentage of 22%.

Characteristics

I’ll now share a view of the service characteristics in HDR and NGA for the three separate events.

This graph shows a steady increase in the usage of HDR and NGA from none at the 2020 French Open to 75% for HDR and 50% of NGA during the Olympics (2020 & 2022).

Production

Let us now look at production figures for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and see the share of HDR.

These figures should be compared to 2 sets of data:

Based on this data, the 32% of Ultra HD HDR is very high compared to the VOD and Broadcast ratios.

Devices

Ultra HD OTT is consumed across the following devices:

The Ultra HD Forum has focused on TV and connected devices representing the most significant audience.

While I hesitate to include this in this blog as it will likely be out of date before it is published, I offer this as an informative snapshot in time and encourage the reader to consider how dynamic the Ultra HD marketplace is and the rapid rate of change and new devices. The Ultra HD Forum Guidelines have created a summary table of some major connected TV brands and their associated HDR support.

BrandReference Support
Sonyhttps://www.sony.com/electronics/support/articles/00161421UHD and HD models support HDR from 2017 onwardsHDR10, HLG, DV
LGhttps://www.lg.com/us/experience-tvs/hdr/what-is-hdrAll 2017 and later UHD and HD models with HDR also support HDR.HDR10, HLG, DV, SL-HDR1
Viziohttps://support.vizio.com/s/article/HDR-High-Dynamic-Range?language=en_USSome 2016 models and all 2017 and later UHD models support HDR.HDR10, HLG, DV
Samsunghttps://www.samsung.com/global/tv/blog/what-is-hdr-and-why-is-it-the-future-of-4k-tv/Mid-2016 and later, VIZIO SmartCast UHD HDR TVs (P, M, E series) support HLG.HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
Roku TV (Hisense TCL, sharp, etc.)
https://support.roku.com/article/115007289948-what-is-hdr
All TCL 4K TVs after 2018 support HDR.HDR10, (some) DV
Fire TVhttps://www.amazon.com/b/ ?node=8521791011&ref=fs_ods_fs_smp_cp_t2Hisense, Toshiba, Amazon, Insignia.HDR10, DV
JVC TVSee linkTV and projectorsHDR10, HLG, DV
Panasonic TVhttps://www.panasonic.com/uk/consumer/televisions/4K-LED-TV.html2016 models support HLG and HDR10m, DV on some models after that date.HDR10, HLG, DV
Philips TVhttps://www.usa.philips.com/c-m-so/tv/p/picture-qualityPhilips Net, Roku TV, Chromecast TVHDR10, HLG, DV

The Ultra HD Forum Guidelines have created a summary table of all the known connected STBs in terms of HDR support.

TypeDeviceHDR Support Reference
Amazon FireFireTV
4K Edition
DV1, HDR10, HDR10+, HLGhttps://developer.amazon.com/docs/fire-tv/device-specifications-fire-tv-stick.html?v=ftvstick4k
 Fire TV  CubeDV1, HDR10, HLGhttps://developer.amazon.com/docs/fire-tv/device-specifications-fire-tv-cube.html?v=ftvcubegen2
Android TVChromecast w/Google TV Nvidia Shield TVHDR10, HDR10+, DV HDR10, DVhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromecast#Chromecast_with_Google_TV
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_Shield_TV
Apple TV (2)Apple 4KDV1, HDR10, HLG10 , HLG (3) , HDR10+ (4)https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208074
Roku 4K  Roku 4KDV1, HDR10, HLG10,  https://www.roku.com/products/roku-tv/
picture-quality
ChromecastUltra DV1, HDR10, HLG10https://developers.google.com/cast/docs/
media
NVIDIAShieldDV1, HDR10,https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/shield/shield-tv/
XiaomiMi boxHDR10,https://www.mi.com/us/mi-box-s/
PS 4 HDR10https://www.playstation.com/en-us/support/hardware/ps4-how-to-enable-hdr/
PS5 HDR10https://www.playstation.com/en-us/support/hardware/ps5-enable-adjust-hdr/
Xbox One HDR10https://support.xbox.com/en-US/help/hardware-network/display-sound/hdr-on-xbox-one

Notes:

  • DV= Dolby Vision
    (2)  As of this publication, Apple TV devices support HLG10 HDR up to 2160p/60 
    (3) as demonstrated by Canal+ during the Champions League Final 2022
    (4) as officially announced at WWDC 2022, and not part of the Forum Guidelines at this stage

The @Ultra HD 4K News has recently published a list of UHD OTT devices (streaming media players), as summarized in the picture below.

This diagram is pretty much aligned with the Ultra HD Forum‘s view.

Interoperability

As I see it, the challenge for an OTT operator who wants to deploy a new service is to adapt the content preparation (encoding, packaging) to the devices’ capability.

The table below provides the different formats supported on the Video and Audio side by each connected device, to the best of my knowledge, at the time of writing this blog. Your feedback on this list and its completeness and accuracy is invited.

DeviceMax Res.Max Frame rateHDRVideo CodecVideo
Signaling
Audio Codec4PackagingSystem signalling
FireTV
4K Edition
216024/59.94DV, HDR10, HDR10+ HLG HEVCSEI (2)E-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)HLS/DASHISO (3) 
FireTV  Cube216060DV HDR10

HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)HLS/DASHISO 
FireStick 4K  216060DV HDR10  HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)HLS/DASHISO 
Android TV STB216024/59.94HDR10, HLGHEVCSEI HLS/DASHISO 
AppleTV 4K (1)216024/59.94DV HDR10, HLGHEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)HLS/DASHISO 
Roku 4K  216024/59.94DV HDR10
HLG 
HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)HLS/DASHISO 
Chromecast Ultra216024/59.94DV HDR10, HEVCSEI HLS/DASHISO 
Nvidia TV Shield216060DV HDR10,HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)HLS/DASHISO 
Nvidia TV Shield Pro216060DV HDR10,HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)DASHISO 
Xbox One X216060DV HDR10,HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)DASHISO 
Xbox One S216060DV HDR10,HEVCSEIE-AC-3 w/JoC (Atmos)DASHISO 
Xiaomi Mi box216060 HDR10,HEVCSEI HLS/DASH? 

Notes:

  1. Currently, Apple TV devices support HDR up to 2601p60fps using HLG10.
  2. HLG requires a VUI message for some backward compatibility modes.
  3. ISO/IEC 14496-15 – Carriage of network abstraction layer (NAL) unit structured video in the ISO base media file format.
  4. Audio codecs beyond legacy stereo and multichannel codecs (i.e., AC-3, AAC, HE-AAC, DTS-HD).

The Ultra HD Forum’s charter is to test as much as possible those combinations during plug fests organized internally, with SDOs, CTA, or with different fora such as DTG (UK) or Deutsch TV Platform.

Ultra HD Devices used in US SVOD services

I provide a list of devices that support different OTT services for consumption on TV, which excludes PCs, Mobiles, and Tablets, based on information provided on the following sites :

This list is not exhaustive and only indicates the depth of integration with various SVOD services in the US. Again, your feedback on this list and its completeness and accuracy is invited.

DevicesType SVOD Services
Amazon Fire TVBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Fire TV CubeBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Android TVsBYODHBOmaxDisney+
Apple TV 4KBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflix 
Google Chromecast UltraBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Chromecast with Google TVBYODHBOmaxDisney+
NVIDIA ShieldBYODAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku Ultra 4800xBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku 4k TVsBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku PremiereBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku Streaming Stick+BYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Xiaomi Mi BoxBYODDisney+
Cox contour 2Pay TV HBOmaxNetflix
Cox stream playerPay TV HBOmaxNetflix
Xfinity X1 (Xi6)Pay TV HBOmaxNetflix
Xfinity FlexPay TV HBOmaxNetflix
AtlanticPay TV Netflix
Blue RidgePay TV Netflix
Cable OnePay TV Netflix
DishPay TV Netflix
GCIPay TV Netflix
GrandePay TV Netflix
MildcontinentPay TV Netflix
RCNPay TV Netflix
Sudden LinkPay TV Netflix
TivoPay TV Netflix
VodafonePay TV Netflix
WavePay TV Netflix
WowPay TV Netflix
PlayStationGameHBOmax
PS VISTAGameNetflix
PS 3GameNetflix
PS 4GameNetflix
PS 5GameNetflix
Xbox One SGameHBOmaxBYODNetflix
Xbox One XGameHBOmaxBYODNetflix
Xbox SeriesX|SGameHBOmax
Xbox X 360GameNetflix
Fire TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflix
Roku TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
XClass TVcTVHBOmax
4K Samsung TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
LG 4K TVcTV HBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Vizio 4K TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflix
Hisense 4K TVcTV                –Amazon PrimeNetflix
JVC 4K TVcTVAmazon Prime
Panasonic 4K TVcTVAmazon PrimeNetflix
Philips 4K TVcTVAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Sharp 4K TVcTVAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Sony 4K TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+

Out of this table, I can deduce the device penetration metric.

I see Netflix having the highs penetration (86%), followed by HBOmax (49%), Amazon (43%), and Disney+ (35%).

I can extract out of this table the common denominator of the 12 devices supporting the four primary SVOD services

DevicesType SVOD Services
Amazon Fire TVBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Fire TV CubeBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Apple TV 4KBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflix 
Google Chromecast UltraBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku Ultra 4800xBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku 4k TVsBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku PremiereBYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku Streaming Stick+BYODHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Roku TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
4K Samsung TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
LG 4K TVcTV HBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+
Sony 4K TVcTVHBOmaxAmazon PrimeNetflixDisney+

Ultra HD Devices used in Live services

I provide a list of devices that support different OTT services for consumption on TV, which excludes PCs, Mobiles, and Tablets, based on information provided on the following sites:

This list is not exhaustive and only indicates the depth of integration with various Live services. Again, your feedback on this list and its completeness and accuracy is invited.

DevicesType 
  BBC iPlayerAmazon Prime TNFFuboTV
Amazon Fire TVBYODrecommendedFuboTV
Fire TV CubeBYODrecommendedFuboTV
Apple TV 4KBYODlimited models (1)FuboTV
Google Chromecast UltraBYODrecommendedFuboTV
Roku 4KBYODBBC recommendedFuboTV
Roku Ultra 4800x recommendedFuboTV
Roku Premiere recommendedFuboTV
Roku Premiere+ recommendedFuboTV
Roku Streaming Stick+ recommendedFuboTV
Xbox One S recommendedFuboTV
Xbox One X recommendedFuboTV
Xbox SeriesX|S recommendedFuboTV
PS3                                              recommended 
PS4                                             recommended 
Netgem 4KBYODBBC
NVIDIA ShieldBYOD 
Blu-ray                                                  limited models   (1)  
Android TV STB (NVIDIA Shield, Xiaomi Mi box) BBClimited models (1)FuboTV
VirginPay TVBBC
Comcast STB  limited models (1) 
Cox STB  limited models (1) 
Youview BBC
Android TVs (Hisense, Sharp, Sony, Funai, Sony TCL) BBClimited models (1)FuboTV
Roku TV (TCL, Hisense)cTVBBCFuboTV
4K Samsung TVcTVBBClimited models (1)FuboTV
LG 4K TVcTV BBClimited models (1)FuboTV
Vizio 4K TV   FuboTV
CVTEcTVBBC
DifihomecTVBBC
JVCcTVBBC
LoewecTVBBC
ManahatancTVBBC
PanasoniccTVBBC
PhilipscTVBBC
SharpcTVBBC
ShenzhencTVBBC
ToshibacTVBBC
VestelcTVBBC
WalkercTVBBC  

(1) See limitations in https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=GNF8H853SMHNED6Z

Out of this table, I can deduce the device penetration metric.

If we normalize by one single type of device per brand, Amazon Prime has the highest device penetration with 53%, followed by BBC with 50%,  FuboTV being the last with 44%.

I can extract from this table the common denominator of the four device categories supporting the three primary Live services.

DevicesType 
  BBC iPlayerAmazon Prime TNFFuboTV
Android TV STB (NVIDIA Shield, Xiaomi Mi box) BBCAmazon PrimeFuboTV
Android TVs (Hisense, Sharp, Sony, Funai, Sony TCL)   BBC limited models (1) FuboTV    
4K Samsung TVcTVBBCAmazon PrimeFuboTV
LG 4K TVcTV BBCAmazon PrimeFuboTV

Conclusion

Ultra HD OTT is getting more and more traction initially for VOD, now moving to linear channels and significant events (French Tennis Open, Olympics, Euro, FIFA world cup, Superbowl). The production ratio for significant events in Ultra HD is higher than for TV and VOD. We see a steady increase in the use of HDR and NGA for Ultra HD services. The critical aspect to understand moving forward is device interoperability, and the Ultra HD Forum is working actively on it. If you are part of the Ultra HD OTT value chain and want to test your products, joining the Ultra HD Forum is a great option. We will be happy to help you climb the Ultra HD OTT ladder (no ABR pun intended).

References

[1] https://ultrahdforum.org/uhd-service-tracker/

[2] https://ultrahdforum.org/newsletters/

[3] https://ultrahdforum.org/guidelines/

Ultra HD Forum

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