8K TVs Are Ready — But There's No Content

ONE TIME USE - 8K televisions at the TCL booth - Getty-H 2019
Robyn Beck/AFP/ Getty Images

At this year's CES in Las Vegas, the Consumer Technology Association touted the inaugural shipments of 8K TVs — boasting four times more resolution than 4K — with an expected 200,000 units sold (factory to dealer) and $545 million in revenue during 2019. Every major set maker featured 8K TVs in their exhibitions. They are large (Samsung's range from 65-inch to 98-inch) and pricey (an 85-inch model lists for $15,000).

But the set makers may be too far ahead of U.S. broadcasters, streaming services and studios, which are nowhere near ready to build their business around native 8K content. And that's the case in most of the world, with a few exceptions — notably Japan, where public broadcaster NHK recently launched an 8K channel. "I don't know of any studio [planning] 8K," says Mike Fidler, executive director of the Ultra HD Alliance, a consortium whose members include Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. "The business is really 4K."

The U.S. is in the process of rolling out a "next gen" broadcast system designed to bring together internet and live over-the-air signals with voluntary options including mobility for delivering video-on-demand content, 4K and high dynamic range TV. But this new U.S. broadcasting system wasn't designed to (and can't) send a native 8K signal to your TV. (Although "upresing" — effectively adding more pixels to sharpen display — is something consumers will see for some time.)

Even if the infrastructure did support 8K, the other issue is the content. While there are various 8K cameras available, 8K postproduction — moving four times more data than 4K — is going to be slower and more expensive. Notes Fidler, "There's still a lot of work to do."

This story also appears in the Jan. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.