It’s the tease of the new year: Some of the most amazing products on display at the 2013 International CES this week aren’t likely to show up in your living room anytime soon.
This year’s show will feature a record 1.87 million net square feet of exhibit space, with 3,000 exhibitors, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Prominent in the aisles of flashing displays will be new “Ultra HD” televisions, which provide four times the resolution of current HDTVs. The sets’ 3,840-by-2,160-pixel displays deliver stunning clarity and detail.
But with prices starting at a cool $20,000 for first-generation models from LG Electronics and $25,000 from Sony Electronics, as well as a dearth of native content in the format, Ultra HD will remain in demo territory for the next few years, according to industry executives.
“It will be interesting to see how fast the manufacturers and studios decide to bring this out,” IBB Consulting partner Jonathan Weitz, who leads the firm’s media practice, said. The pace of consumer adoption of Ultra HD will “come down to price and content.”
ESPN, an early leader in HD, is keeping its powder dry on Ultra HD (also known as “4K”) for now. It is “experimenting with 4K technology to enhance our HD telecasts,” but currently has no plans to produce content in Ultra HD “for residential consumption,” vice president of strategic business planning Bryan Burns said.
But Discovery Communications, for one, is already “looking heavily at it,” executive vice president of media technology, production and operations Glenn Oakley said. “If you have seen it, you would see how compelling it is … This is right in line with Discovery’s sweet spot and our brand.”
Last fall, 3net, the joint venture of Discovery, Sony and Imax, announced plans for Space, a documentary feature billed as the first native- 4K TV production.
Cox Communications, marking a rare appearance by a cable operator at CES, is planning to announce what it touts as “an entirely new personal video experience coming in 2013, something never before seen in the U.S.”
According to an industry source familiar with the project, the MSO will outline a secondscreen strategy that will unify the TV viewing experience across smartphones, tablets and other devices. Cox has been working with Cisco Systems on the initiative. The operator also will show off its recently enhanced Trio guide, which provides personalized content recommendations.
In another second-screen push, LG will introduce a feature of its 2013 connected TVs dubbed “Tag On,” which lets a user hold a smartphone or other near-fi eld communication (NFC) device up to the television to stream content to the bigger screen. In addition, the CE maker’s updated Smart Home interface uses “cards” that act as folders for streamlined access to apps and content.
For TV makers and service providers, it has become critical to have “a great, rich user experience that consumers have come to expect from tablets and laptops,” IBB’s Weitz said.
ALSO WORTH WATCHING
Dish Network is slated to detail new features of its controversial Hopper multiroom DVR that will “give the consumer greater choice and control than ever before.” The Hopper, introduced at the 2012 CES, includes an automated ad-skipping feature that prompted lawsuits by major broadcasters.
On Jan. 8, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam will deliver the afternoon keynote. And in a new CES tradition, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski will sit for a one-on-one interview with CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro on Jan. 9.
Highlights of the trade show are expected to include pricey Ultra HD televisions and products that integrate TVs and second-screen devices.