Format War Ahead? HDR TV Lineup Keeps Expanding

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With their deep blacks and rich reds, the latest high-dynamic range displays dazzled attendees at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, but the ever-expanding lineup of HDR TVs (which retail for as much as $6,000) — as well as the new HDR10+ format — also could fan the flames of an early-stage HDR format war.

Before last year, there were primarily four competing standards: HDR10, an open HDR format that every Hollywood studio supports; the proprietary Dolby Vision for home entertainment, supported by Netflix, Amazon and every major studio except Fox; and Technicolor's Advanced HDR and Hybrid Log Gamma (developed by the BBC and Japan's NHK), both of which are focused on live broadcasting.

Making its CES debut was Samsung's HDR10+, which has support from Fox, Warner Bros., Amazon and Panasonic and, like Dolby Vision, is aimed at high-end studio content.

"HDR10 brought the ability to present filmmakers' creative intent, [but] you benefit only from the top-end TV models," says 20th Century Fox and Fox Innovation Lab exec Danny Kaye of the rationale for HDR10+, which "expands the quality experience to TVs not as expensive."

But the existence of so many options comes with a pricey trade-off. If multiple HDR formats enter the consumer market, Hollywood could bear the burden of increased production and delivery costs for its content.

"If you have to make multiple versions, it's going to cost money," warns Howard Lukk, director of engineering and standards for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. "There's a price to pay for having multiple standards."

The other factor is shopper confusion, never helpful in a tech rollout. The Ultra HD Alliance, a consortium whose members include the major studios, is "focused on education and information for consumers," says UHDA president Mike Fidler, citing a logo to help buyers identify which devices are certified.

Says Lukk, "We're going to have confusion for a couple years until [HDR] sorts itself out."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.