FOCUS: Japan TV industry pinning hopes on ultra high-definition technology
(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TOKYO, Feb. 7 -- (Kyodo) _ The Japanese television industry is seeking a return to the forefront of the international market using new, ultra high-definition technologies, with an eye toward launching two new formats, 4K broadcasting and "super hi-vision," in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
"We will study whether it is possible to launch SHV broadcasting on a trial basis before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics," Masayuki Matsumoto, president of Japan Broadcasting Corp., the nation's sole public broadcaster known as NHK, said at a press conference in January.
"We would like to lead the world with our broadcasting technology," he added.
NHK plans to demonstrate its SHV technology by airing the Olympic Games in the Brazilian city before full-scale launch of SHV broadcasting by the summer of 2020, when Tokyo hopes to host the major sport event.
NHK has continued studies on SHV TVs, which boast 16 times the resolution of current high-definition TVs, with an eye toward starting trial broadcasting in 2020. But it intends to move the launch date forward due to faster-than-expected technological advances.
Communications satellite broadcaster Sky Perfect JSAT Corp. plans to launch 4K broadcasting in time for the soccer World Cup finals in 2014. The company positions the 4K format, which has a resolution about four times higher than standard high definition, as a bridge toward SHV broadcasting.
TV makers are also pinning high hopes on next-generation high-definition broadcasting, as 3-D TVs have failed to live up to expectations of huge sales following Japan's full conversion to terrestrial digital broadcasting in 2011.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will jointly support the development of ultra high-definition TVs and programs.
Collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors to promote the next-generation TV technology reflects a sense of urgency in Japan about accelerating moves to adopt the 4K format in other countries.
South Korea began testing terrestrial 4K broadcasting last fall to pave the way for the full coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with the format, while France has kicked off a national project for 4K broadcasting. Satellite broadcasting companies in the United States and Britain are reported preparing to start 4K broadcasting services.
At an annual U.S. consumer electronics show that ended Jan. 11, South Korean makers Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., which are competing for the biggest share of the global market for high-definition TVs, displayed new 4K models, along with those of other manufacturers including Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp.
"If things are left as they are, South Korean makers will capture a big international market share and shut Japanese makers out," said Yoichi Ogasawara, a senior communications ministry official, advocating the government policy of helping Japanese manufacturers keep up with global trends in the 4K technology and capitalize on their edge over foreign rivals in the field of SHV TVs.
But pundits question whether consumers will flock to next-generation high-definition TVs, as prices per inch of 4K TVs are no lower than 10,000 yen, compared with around 1,000 yen for current high-definition TVs.
In addition, many households do not have living rooms spacious enough for 50-inch or bigger TVs which are said to be needed to enjoy super-sharp images, while consumers may shun 4K TVs if the release of SHV TVs is thought to be certain to follow.
As another stumbling block to next-generation high-definition TVs, programs utilizing the formats have yet to be produced. Commercial TV stations cannot afford to spend generously on program production as they have just completed investment in terrestrial digital broadcasting.
There are also technological difficulties to overcome for SHV TVs, such as how to compress massive amounts of data.
But Keiichi Kubota, chief engineer at NHK, says, "We should compete in the SHV market because we have technologies in the field South Korea does not have."
(c) 2013 Kyodo News International, Inc.
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