business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

So the other day, Mrs. Content Guy and I wandered into an appliance store, and my attention was immediately drawn to a television screen at the back of the store. It was a gorgeous, 56-inch screen that had the brightest, clearest, crispest picture I'd ever seen. It was extraordinary. It was magical. I wanted one.

Except, of course, this Ultra HD TV screen was on sale for $5500, which was more than a little out of my price range. And, as I chatted with the salesman, we agreed that the reason that the picture was so amazing was that the image was being fed from a computer hard drive. If you play "The Blacklist" or "CSI" on that screen, it won't look any better than it would on a HD screen, because it isn't being produced and broadcast in Ultra HD. The production of such programming in Ultra HD almost certainly is years away.

I joked with the salesman as we left the store that the Ultra HD TVs would start selling like hotcakes as soon as the format was adopted either by the NFL or the porn industry … if those content providers start making product available in Ultra HD TV, people would start buying TVs on which to play it. (Porn traditionally has been on the front lines of technological innovation, followed by sports.) Mrs. Content Guy rolled her eyes at that particular observation, we strolled out, and that's where the conversation ended.

Except that the future arrived a little faster than I expected.

Variety reports this morning that at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in LasVegas, Samsung announced agreements with Netflix, Comcast, Paramount Pictures, DirecTV, 20th Century Fox, and Amazon that will "bring 4K video to the company’s 2014 line of UHD televisions."

What the agreements mean is that these various entities will either produce Ultra HD content or convert existing content to Ultra HD, which the companies believe will drive more people to buy the Ultra HD sets. Among them - Netflix, which will make the second season of "House of Cards," its breakthrough streaming TV series, available in the higher definition format.

"2014 will be a breakthrough year for Ultra HD and it is important to deliver on not only the top-of-the-line products but also great content to fully enjoy the benefits of Ultra HD,” Kyungshik Lee, senior VP of the service strategy team for Samsung’s Visual Display Business, said in a prepared statement.

No announcements about porn or NFL content being available in Ultra HD. At least not yet.

But don't bet against it.

Mostly, take this as a kind of Eye-Opening lesson … which is that the future almost always arrives sooner than you expect, and innovations almost always gain traction faster than you expect.
KC's View: