Archive for August, 2014

Perceptions on UHD

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

With IFA and IBC 2014 just around the corner, the technology world will step up a gear as new releases and technologies that will “change the world” are show-cased. With no new revolutions on the horizon, the evolution of HD into UHD is the latest game-changer.

ACB has always conducted research on the purchase and use of new technology and is known for reliable forecasting of the mass market and adoption of key features into routine behaviours. Unsurprisingly, there is always a lot of journalistic interest in ACB and this year opinions and perspectives are sought on UHD and where it really fits in with the “average” consumer.

1. Is this something that consumers (and their front rooms) are ready for?

As the technology marketing boats set sail and praise their own technologies and inform the public on what they need to be buying, it is critical for the predictor to remember the demographic of the buyer. For UHD the industry will need to carefully think of the target market and anticipate it to be older than it was for HD and as such need to create the marketing experience with that in mind. Currently 33” is the mainstream size and the customer perception of a big screen might be 55”. However, as time goes on the expectation is more than likely to grow with the TVs, as hardware makers phase out smaller sizes in the same way that thin/flat screens replaced CRT.

One of the 1-3-9 industry neutral media lab participants M36 – who is higher up the adoption curve generally and currently has a UE40F series TV with Evolution- described how he had been discussing UHD with his friends, who he recommended get the latest H range of Samsung TV. The friends had agreed they were keen on 3D, but that UHD was less relevant because of the current level of quality available through HD.

M36 also stated that size was not a strong enough reason to upgrade his TV, “There must be a point where people know it’s too much. My 40 inch TV doesn’t feel too small, why would I get a 55? Larger than 40 would feel imposing”.
Whilst a massive TV screen streaming Man U* scoring in the 93rd minute in UHD might be the stuff of dreams, the reality of life might prove a hard perception to budge.
*insert appropriate team

To play devil’s advocate here ACB knew that in fact M36 would love a bigger screen 46” as it was observed that he tried to persuade his wife in the shop two years earlier (during purchase) and was seen talking fancifully about his passion for the entire walls being screens, but for now his perspective has changed due to the clarity of current high-spec TVs.
Improvements across other parts of the TV other than the screen might possibly drive belief and desire that a replacement TV is needed. In terms of potential capabilities/features for these big beauties, that could include interaction with content outside the frame of what’s being viewed, but the makers of Game of Thrones may prefer not to spend >$6 million an episode to have overlays or interfaces of other content masking it or competing for eyeballs, but they may be more tolerant of content, warming the viewer to their new series or promoting their app. This will need more genuine research as the content will have to be right and the consumer may find commercials darn irritating. It is likely future EPGs will change but they will need to enhance the overall content experience of course not block/damage/reduce. Having additional features to the TV is something customers are expecting whether it’s built in Freeview or a catchy new interface to play Netflix from.

2. Is the UHD experience a place for immersion (e.g. the stadium seat view) or interaction (e.g. statistics feeds, multi-camera views, etc.) and where is that balance?

This is something that may be still easier to obtain by going to the cinema, where you dedicate 3 hours of your time to watch one film in a darkened room, but we know that the front room is a constantly changing eco-system. In short, yes, but immersive experiences will be rare as life takes over. Occasionally the context will be created to have the stadium seat view; it’s likely to depend on the type of TV content being viewed more than anything else as well as the household’s viewing habits. This is why ACB studied the London 2012 Olympics and the US 2013 Super Bowl –the dates are less important- what is essential is to understand the audience behaviour and viewers appetite in these heightened viewing conditions. There were occasions when for the broad-based audience, the TV was all. Given this type of content and other contextual factors, (see the phase 6 industry neutral longitudinal media lab report taster http://www.acbuk.net/uploads/pdfs/acb-phase-6-sample.pdf)

So yes this TV technology offers potential for unique and powerful heightened experience around that type of content. With regards to second screen use, to date viewers are potentially more likely to interact with these devices during light entertainment programmes (I’m a Celebrity, X-Factor), though stacking is likely to remain popular and meshing interaction much rarer, it’s still mostly independent of the TV content and the aggressive push for second screen use will have to come from the main screen. Highly engaging content, such as dramas, are more likely to be watched without any concurrent activities due to viewers focusing on the vividness of the picture and story. For now, ACB are expecting TV providers to build in overlays of content or options on the side of a screen – viewers are unlikely to want to give up any screen real-estate for anything other than the programme unless it was integral to the content. We do need to flag up the initial irritation-factor and how disruptive this can be seen by most viewers. Filtering is vital and this will evolve; customisation is key and helping the customer customise the experience must be integral to the marketing campaign.

ACB consistently reminds clients of the social etiquette that surrounds TV viewing and highlights the importance for manufacturers of considering social and private barriers as well. For example, in Phase 6 of the 1-3-9 Industry neutral longitudinal media lab, Francis Gardner’s (46) opinion was originally optimistic around having Twitter on his Panasonic TV: M46: “I was quite excited when I first saw my Twitter, because I like the idea of having Twitter on whilst you’re watching TV.”
But then reality hit home for M46: “… it was Sports Personality of the Year, I put Twitter up for that. I genuinely wanted to see what it was like. I think, maybe at a different event that might have worked. The speed of the traffic, you know the number of Tweets flying along the bottom, you could either concentrate on them and even then you couldn’t quite catch it or you could concentrate on the programme. Trying to do them both didn’t work at all… it’s got to the point where it’s not helpful, it’s distracting.” M46 claimed.

The viewer experience on this occasion was overload, due to the lack of experience by the consumer and also the marketer, but the fact that there was a consumer desire to engage with social media alongside content does offer some potential. With customised filtering in place it may increase engagement with content. This is an area which would need to be looked at in more detail through natural research to understand the impact of the experience given the spontaneity of the event.

The biggest questions to answer right now are about the offering. What are the consumers of today going to find compelling about an improved clarity of TV when HD (720p to 1080p) covers about 50% of current channels? The cost of some UHD TVs is definitely falling fast, roughly 20% in the past six weeks. On the TV floors in the vast department stores of Oxford Street, London, most of the TVs are UHD. The colours are turned up to 11 with deep blue skies and the emerald pitches and nearly all showcasing the football. Suppliers are gambling on the predominantly male viewer/buyer finding the enhanced viewing quality of ‘the beautiful game’ irresistible. The salesman asks the prospective purchaser to face the TV and then step back away from the TV so many feet… and then he gestures with both hands – fingertips pointed towards the TV – to explain optimal seating and view. For the earlier adopter or a slightly TV obsessive perfectionist, they may like to measure out the distance and position their chairs/sofas correctly to ensure the ‘movie- like’ quality they hope to recreate. No outside interference, low light, higher sound quality that is louder than normal and all in all a complete, richer experience. For the slightly later adopter, there may be a short hesitation whilst viewers scratch their head and consider cost and their use and experience of UHD vs HD vs SD. All viewers will need to wait for the content suppliers to catch up.

Yes, UHD and the TV viewing market is an increasingly competitive environment this autumn. A meeting of minds and strategy needs to happen between the creative advertising industry, content companies and suppliers in order to effectively target the viewer and fellow viewers in this immersive viewing experience. Importantly the consumer must be central to this discussion and all offerings need to be sensitive to social viewing. That is invariably more valued to ensure the best viewing experience from this very powerful screen.