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How Will Smart TV Technology Transform in the Future?

The pace of innovation in the TV industry has been incredibly rapid over the past decade. TVs continue to become thinner, brighter, and more colorful, thanks to advances in screen technology. And the prices of even the most expensive TVs continue to drop, making very high-end smart TVs much more accessible to consumers. So it’s only natural to assume that the pace of innovation will be just as rapid over the next decade. But how exactly will smart TV technology transform in the future?

The first assumption that you have to dismiss entirely is that the “best” technology will win out. That wasn’t the case with plasma televisions, for example. They were generally considered to have a superior technology. The only problem was that they were difficult to manufacture at a cheap enough price point. As a result, the LED TV caught up and eventually surpassed the plasma TV. It wasn’t a win on technological grounds, but on economic grounds. So we can’t always assume that the latest and greatest technologies will always be the ones that triumph in the decade ahead.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some changes that are likely headed to the smart TV industry.

#1: New types of shared social experiences

If you think about the way you watch TV today and the way you watched TV a decade ago, not much has changed. In fact, you might still be watching TV from that same couch that you bought when you first moved into your new home. So here’s one thing that’s definitely going to change: TV is going to become more social.

In many ways, that was the original premise of connecting the smart TV and the Internet – it was a way to bring all the great content on the Internet to your TV. And it also made it possible to combine social media and your TV. You could theoretically watch a professional baseball game and have tweets related to your team show up on your screen in real-time. That was a basic type of shared experience. Even though you were sitting at home alone on your couch, you were sharing that game with total strangers.

The real breakthrough here might involve Facebook and their new forays into live broadcasting (via Facebook Live). Facebook has also talked about creating a studio for developing original video content, as well as plans for a Facebook TV app that would be available on a set-top device for your TV. Imagine combining the power of Facebook and smart TV into one platform.

#2:  Augmented reality

In the most basic forms of augmented reality, graphics and information are overlaid on top of the screen while you are watching a show, game or movie. This content is not in the original movie or show, but is something that has been pulled in from the Internet to “augment” your experience.

Here’s one example: you’re watching your favorite TV shows and you can’t stop thinking about the wonderful outfits that the beautiful actresses are wearing. You wished that you could buy something just like them. With augmented reality, you might be able to see content about the outfits as an AR layer on your screen, and even receive information about where to purchase them online, all as an overlay.

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Or, here’s another example. You’re competing in a fantasy football league with your buddies, and you want to keep track of how your team is doing while you’re watching a game on TV. With augmented reality, you would see an overlay of your players’ fantasy football statistics. In fact, a form of AR is already available for football. If you watch a game, you’ll notice that overlays are drawn on your screen to show the first-down marker. And the broadcasters love to draw little lines and squiggles all over your screen, showing you the route that a pass catcher took, or the intricate series of balletic moves that a monstrous, 300-pound defensive end made to sack your favorite QB.

#3: Virtual reality

One step beyond augmented reality is virtual reality (VR). With VR television, you would be able to bring objects to life as virtual reality experiences. In one demo of this technology, Microsoft showed how it might work with its HoloLens technology. Imagine that you’re watching a football game on TV. You’d hit a button on your remote control and put on a VR headset, and you’d see what appeared to be a re-enactment of the play right in front of you. As part of the demo, Microsoft also showed what appeared to be a VR tabletop. Instead of watching the game on a TV, you’d watch it on a tabletop. You could then touch the screen, and miniature VR players would appear on your tabletop.

As more and more studios develop VR movies, it’s likely that we’ll get smart TVs capable of playing them, as long as you’re wearing a VR headset. For example, at the recent Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, there was a segment of the show devoted purely to immersive VR experiences. In one film, you could strap on a VR headset – in addition to a real bulletproof vest – and walk onto a mini-stage set, complete with trees and bushes. A VR movie then started on your headset, in which you were immersed in a world of elephant poachers in Africa. At times, you were flying overhead in a helicopter, at other times, you were riding through the bush on a jeep. But it felt real.

#4: Holograms

Most holograms today are really just a fancy parlor trick and optical illusion that’s been around since the 18th century. But a real holographic experience would be similar to one in the movie “Star Wars,” where a hologram of the jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared with a message. Using a smart TV, you’d be able to have similar types of holographic experiences.

For example, let’s say that you order an On Demand concert performance by your favorite singer (for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s Beyonce). If you pressed the “hologram” button on your TV’s remote, you might see a hologram of Beyonce appear in front of you, singing and dancing to her best songs.

And that scenario is not completely out of the question. Thanks to a new technology known as Ultra-D, it’s possible to create realistic 3D images using light fields, parallax barriers, and software. And you don’t even need 3D glasses to view them properly! It’s being billed as an immersive “glasses-free 3D viewing experience.”

**

It may be hard to predict the future of smart TV precisely, but we do know it’s going to include more than just a lot more pixels. It will include innovative types of experiences and content drawing on technologies already available today. And it will likely be a lot more immersive and interactive than just sitting on a couch eating potato chips. In fact, a decade from now, we might look back fondly on the term “couch potato” and view it as a quaint anachronism.

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The Ease and Appeal of Google Chromecast

The primary allure of the Google Chromecast has always been its ability to wirelessly stream Netflix, Spotify, HBO or Hulu content from your mobile device or PC to your TV. Moreover, it was able to do this at a very affordable price – just $35 for the tiny Chromecast dongle. But did you know that there’s a lot more that the Chromecast is able to do? Just check out some of these creative ways to use the Chromecast, proving once again how handy it is.

#1: Send live broadcasts to your TV

Ever since Facebook debuted Facebook Live, people have been looking to live broadcast bits and pieces of their lives. This might be a live broadcast from a birthday party or a “wish you were here” clip while on vacation. Well, you don’t have to watch all those Facebook Live broadcasts on just a tiny mobile phone anymore. You can use the Chromecast to send a Facebook broadcast to the TV. Your friends and family will appear larger than life as they give a live feed from a game, concert or event. Whenever you get a notification from Facebook that one of your friends has a live broadcast in process, it’s time to pull out the Chromecast.

#2: Send photos to your TV

It’s possible to cast photos from Google Photos on an iOS or Android device to your TV. Imagine coming back from vacation and having hundreds of photos on your phone that you want to show others. Now you can invite them to your living room and show them on the big screen. You can turn this into a real entertainment experience. Just dim the lights and turn on the right music to set the scene for your viewers.

#3: Watch TV with the volume cranked down to zero

There is a mobile app called LocalCast that enables you to cast video to your TV while keeping the audio on your device. If you plug in your earphones, you’ll have a completely muted experience – you may have a gorgeous movie playing in HD on your TV, but people around you won’t hear a thing. Pro tip: this is a great way for parents to enjoy a movie after the kids have been packed off to bed. You won’t have to worry about waking them up when a loud explosion goes off in the R-rated action-adventure film you’re watching together.

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#4: Take Chromecast with you on vacation

No more being at the mercy of hotels for your entertainment options. You can take your Chromecast with you on vacation and use it to play content on your hotel’s TV. You have two options here – you can either call the hotel IT desk and have them hook up your Chromecast to the hotel Wi-Fi network, or you can bring a travel router that plugs into an Ethernet port in the wall. In the second case, you’d have to connect your Chromecast and the travel router to make sure they can talk to each other. But the result is magic: you can stream content in your hotel room, just like you would at home.

#5: Have a virtual reality experience

Ok, here’s where things get really interesting. You can combine the Google Daydream VR headset and the Chromecast to show what’s on your headset on your TV. Thus, as you are exploring a virtual world, you can let people join in on the fun. This helps to make virtual reality (VR) a more social experience. Instead of having your friends seeing you just twisting and turning your neck every now and then and letting out an audible, “Wow,” let them see exactly what you’re seeing in virtual reality.

#6: Play games on the TV

Just like you can stream movies on your TV, you can also stream games. There are a growing number of games made specifically for Chromecast in the Google Play store. Most of these are fun family games that you can enjoy with your kids, like “Trivia Bash” or “Just Dance Now” (if you want to get your groove on). If it’s a rainy day and your kids are getting cabin fever, this might be a fun, low-cost way to keep them from running around the house.

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#7: Have a presentation on your TV

If you use Google Slide, you can show your presentation with Chromecast since Google Cast is built into Chrome. In other words, you can carry around your corporate presentation with you on your phone and then project it on a TV to give a true big screen effect to your latest slides. Once you’ve figured out this little trick, you’ll never want to give a PowerPoint presentation on your laptop again.

#8: Play music on your TV

You can also take advantage of the audio qualities of your TV to play music. You can do this via the Google Play Music app. Just open up the app, select the Cast icon, and then choose Chromecast. From there, you can have an impromptu DJ performance in your living room. Or just stream music during a party. If you’ve invested in a home entertainment system, it’s time to make the Chromecast the center of that system.

#9: Watch your movies in stunning 4K

Google Chromecast recently released an upgrade, known as 4K Ultra, that enables you to stream 4K content. If you went out and bought the latest and greatest TV that boasts a stunning 4K picture, this might be worth the upgrade. You now have the ability to watch stunning content in the highest possible resolution.

#10: Use the Chromecast to decorate your room

We said the Chromecast was handy, right? It now comes in such colorful options that it seems like it would make a wonderful piece of décor for your room to match with art on your walls. At the very least, you can use it as a paperweight.

As you can see, the uses of the Google Chromecast are limited only by your imagination. Seemingly every week, there’s a new use unveiled for the Chromecast. Any digital content, it seems, can be cast to your TV. So, whatever you do, don’t refer to your Chromecast by the derogatory term “dongle” anymore. It’s way, way more than that. It’s cheap, portable and very handy.

chromecast-review

How Will Live Streaming Affect This NFL Season?

Changes in the live streaming industry continue to reverberate everywhere, changing the way we think about entertainment, news and sports. Perhaps the best place to see this dynamic at work is with the NFL, which is continually looking for ways to widen its fan base and provide a superior viewing experience via live streaming.

The days are long gone when the only way you could catch an NFL game was by tuning into broadcast TV at a certain time. Once Monday Night Football moved to ESPN, it meant that you seriously had to consider cable TV. And as live streaming became popular, it meant that streaming services such as Sling TV became very relevant for football fans who wanted to pay the minimum possible and still get their NFL action. And in 2016, the NFL changed the game even further, by streaming Thursday Night Football games on Twitter.

So there are clearly a lot of changes happening right now with how the NFL delivers its action to fans. Here’s what to watch out for in the 2017 NFL season in terms of live streaming.

#1: New Live Streaming Partners

During the first week of April, the NFL announced that Amazon.com – not Twitter – would become the new live streaming partner for Thursday Night Football. Amazon hasn’t released much about what its live streaming option will include, only that it will only be available for Amazon Prime members.

Tying the live stream to Amazon Prime membership makes sense – after all, Amazon reportedly paid $50 million for the right to live stream a whopping total of 10 games! It’s easy to do the math – that’s $5 million per game. Assuming that the cost of Amazon Prime membership will be $99 per year, it looks like Amazon will need to sign up 50,000 new Amazon Prime members each week to make this deal work!

Most likely, Amazon will include the live NFL action as another reason to buy new Amazon Fire streaming sticks. Last season all you needed was a Twitter account to get live NFL action: this year you will need some kind of hardware to stream the game to your TV.

#2: A More Fragmented Viewing Experience

In addition to Amazon, there are now at least three other ways to stream NFL action without having cable TV: Sling TV, Playstation Vue and NFL Game Pass. If you have cable TV and a tablet or smartphone, then you can stream the games on mobile apps from NBC, Fox, ESPN and NFL Network.

But here’s the thing: it might take a combination of several different streaming services to get exactly the right mix of games. Last season, for example, Sunday games were available on CBS and Fox, Sunday night games were on NBC, Monday night games were on ESPN, and Thursday Night Football games were on CBS, NBC or NFL Network (depending on the week).

NFL-live-streaming

Confused yet?

So, let’s say you’ve cut the cord with cable and are using Sling TV to get your TV content. You would need Sling Blue to get NFL Network, and you would need Sling Orange to get ESPN. So you would need Sling Orange and Blue to get all the games on Sunday and Monday.

Oh, but wait, there’s just one problem with that strategy – local Fox and NBC streaming feeds are not available in all markets with Sling TV, so that means you might still have no way to watch Sunday Night Football (on NBC) or Sunday games (on Fox). And when Thursday Night Football was on NBC, you’d have to watch it via Amazon!

So you can see why watching football is going to be a very fragmented experience for anyone who doesn’t have cable TV. By the time you combine all the necessary services (like $99 for Amazon Prime!), maybe it’s just easier to sign up for cable TV and stop trying to patch together a lot of different streaming options!

#3: New Types of Screen Experiences

The big allure of signing up Twitter last season was that the NFL could tap into a vast new audience of social media users who might not otherwise watch football. If all your friends are tweeting about the game, then it might encourage you to tune in as well. The single best ad for the NFL, theoretically, is a Twitter feed that fills up with NFL-related tweets.

In theory, Twitter + NFL should have meant even more of a “second screen experience.” In other words, people would be watching the game on TV while sending out funny tweets on their tablet. But maybe that’s not what the NFL really wants. Maybe it’s better for the NFL if all the social interaction actually occurs on the TV screen.

Moreover, a lot of users complained about the Twitter experience last year. One big #fail was the fact that there was a 15-to-30 second delay between the linear broadcast and the live stream. That means people on Twitter were sometimes sending out tweets about what just happened 30 seconds before you saw it yourself! You’d be watching your team, huddled down near its own end zone, and people on Twitter would be talking about some amazing play. And then – boom! – the star player on your team streaks down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. So that’s what they were just tweeting about!

One type of new screen experience that people are talking about this year is better integration of stats, scores and fantasy football information right on your screen. Thus, say the quarterback on your fantasy football team just threw a touchdown – instead of checking on your mobile app to see how that play  changed your fantasy football score, you’d see it right on the screen.

The key here is that people prefer to watch NFL on the big screen. That’s why people go to bars to watch games – the screen is bigger than the one at home. That’s why the guy or girl with the biggest TV screen always hosts the Super Bowl party – you want to be able to see all the action on a huge HD or 4K screen!

So, looking ahead to the 2017 season, there’s a lot to keep in mind about live streaming. Once Amazon announces how it plans to deliver Thursday Night Football action, you can start plotting out the ultimate live streaming experience if you don’t have cable TV. And, even if you do have cable, you’ll want to check out whether you will need to upgrade to a higher tier to catch all the action on NFL Network or NFL RedZone.

This might just be the season where Sling TV and Playstation Vue find themselves dealing with mass defections of NFL fans, who are starting to realize that the “skinny bundle” popularized by these streaming services might not deliver all the hard-hitting football action they want every Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Now that the big streaming players have shown that NFL action can be a premium offering, it’s going to be interesting to see what changes they make in the live streaming market.

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How Will Live Streaming TV Be Different From Cable?

This could be the year that members of the cord-cutting generation finally put an end to cable TV as we know it. While there are already two primary live streaming TV alternatives that everybody knows about – Sling TV and PlayStation Vue – there are also a handful of options that either launched at the end of last year or are planning to launch by mid-2017, including DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, YouTube TV and VIDGO.

In short, there are going to be a lot more ways to watch live streaming TV than ever before in 2017. So it’s only fair to ask: How will live streaming TV be different from cable?

That’s a great question to ask, since it helps us deconstruct the classic cable TV experience into its component parts: content, distribution, and functionality. The live streaming TV services are splitting apart each of these components, re-thinking them, and then recombining them in new ways to make pricing more affordable for customers.

Of course, as you’ll see below, you also have to keep in mind the various trade-offs that you might have to make as a live streaming TV customer. You didn’t really think that you’d get the same number of channels as cable and even more functionality at a cheaper price, did you?

Factor #1: Content

Let’s start with content, because that’s the first place you’ll notice a difference in the live streaming TV experience from the cable TV experience. Whereas you typically get 200+ channels with a cable TV provider, you might only get 30 to 50 channels with the core offering of an alternative streaming TV provider (as is the case with Sling TV and PlayStation Vue).

The key, then, is to figure out how many of the “best” content channels you’re getting. As long as you’re getting a few of the major networks, a major sports network like ESPN and a major news network like CNN, services like Sling TV figure you probably won’t care that you’re not getting 150 channels you wouldn’t watch anyway. That was the reason you decided to become a cord-cutter in the first place, right?

The new trend is to offer live streaming TV customers a “skinny bundle” that includes all the most popular channels. Then, customers can customize that bundle with all kinds of add-on packages or single premium networks. For example, you might get the Sling TV Orange package (30 channels), and then pay extra to get HBO. The number of possible permutations is really mind-boggling, and you have to pay careful attention that all those channel add-ons don’t start inflating the core price you’ve agreed to pay.

Factor #2: Distribution

You might wonder what “distribution” means, and it’s a really good term to know. It’s also a very important question to ask. Distribution is a very internet-centric term, but it just refers to how the content is delivered to you. As you might have guessed, the live streaming TV providers are using the Internet to provide all that great content, so in a certain way, they are dependent on the big cable providers who built all those nice, fat broadband pipes into your living room.

But here’s where things get really interesting – once you have Internet in your home, it means you can create a Wi-Fi network in your home, and that means – you guessed it! – that you can take your TV content with you wherever you go in your home. And you can watch it on just about any digital device – a tablet, a smartphone or a laptop computer. If you can get Internet service, and if you can download an app, you can watch the TV content. This really expands the pie in terms of the number of potential consumers.

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Factor #3: Functionality

The fundamental premise of a cable TV experience is that you can do just about anything with your TV once you have cable hooked up – you can watch live, linear TV; you can watch content On Demand; and you can record shows to your DVR. This is actually a very powerful argument, so the live streaming TV services have had to re-think this to make up for any deficiencies.

And this is what they came up with – a plan to wean you off your TV and get you to embrace the idea of watching TV on your tablet or other digital device. That way, they don’t need to worry about set-top boxes, equipment, or even if you have a TV. Instead of a physical DVR, you now have a “cloud DVR”! In fact, you may not even need an official “internet account” – if you’re a college student, you might just live off free Wi-Fi in your dorm and the local Starbucks, for example.

Who owns the customer now?

We’ve just looked at three very important factors – content, distribution and functionality. The live streaming TV services have all taken slightly different approaches to these, all in an attempt to offer a superior value proposition to users. That’s fantastic for the customer, of course, because more competition means more choice.

But here’s the strange thing – it’s not really clear who “owns the customer” these days. Think about it – with a cable TV provider, you signed up for a cable contract lasting one, two or three years. The company “owned” you. If you wanted to get any content that wasn’t live, linear TV, you essentially had to ask permission from them and then pay them.

But the live streaming TV service providers did away with contracts. You can quit and walk away at any time. So, a customer could theoretically sign up for Sling TV, stay for a month or two, quit, sign up for some bargain or special rate from DirecTV Now, quit, and then sign up for YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue or…

Well, you get the idea. Customer loyalty is really a thing of the past. The companies who “own” the customer these days are the most popular content companies – like HBO. It used to be the case that, in order to get HBO, you HAD to be a cable customer. No questions asked. But HBO essentially unbundled itself from cable. Now, it’s an a la carte option on the great streaming TV buffet table. You can get HBO with Sling TV, for example, and that’s got to make the big cable TV companies extremely upset.

You know why, right? Yes, of course, it’s because customers can kick cable TV companies to the curb now if they can get their HBO or ESPN elsewhere. So that might be the biggest change to the live, linear TV experience: a fundamental change in how customers think about all the great TV content they’re consuming.

The new paradigm is a massive “internet cloud” where every single piece of TV content resides. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to stream all that content to your device, and now there is a very robust set of options. Sling TV and PlayStation Vue were just the beginning of what has become a major new trend in how people watch live TV.

FuboTV Review – Live Soccer for Cord Cutters

FuboTV launched as a live streaming TV service in January 2015 primarily for soccer fans, offering viewers the chance to watch soccer matches and other live sports on 10 different channels for a low monthly price of $9.99 (with a chance to upgrade with “add-on” packages).

Image result for FuboTVAt the end of December 2016, though, the company announced that it had signed major partnership deals with Fox Networks, NBC Universal, A+E Networks, Crown Media Family Networks, Fuse Media, NBA TV and The Weather Channel. Starting in early 2017, fuboTV plans to offer 70+ premium sports and entertainment channels for an introductory, discounted price of $34.99 per month (which will increase later to $49.99 per month).

As a result, fuboTV viewers will be able to watch live sports events from all major U.S. professional and college sports, as well as international leagues and tournaments. For sports fans looking for a live streaming TV service, fuboTV has suddenly become a very attractive option, especially because the network also plans to bundle in some major entertainment channels as well.

With the huge boost in the number of channels that fuboTV will offer, the streaming TV service is transitioning from being a niche sports streaming service into being a major sports-centric live streaming TV service that can compete with the likes of DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live and Sling TV.


CONTENT

Image result for FuboTVAs noted above, fuboTV now plans to offer 70+ channels. Full beta launch is coming in February 2017, although the current website for fuboTV still describes the $9.99 package for 10 channels.  So let’s take a closer look at the core 10 channels still being offered, and then consider the remaining channels.

Here are the 10 channels offered in 2016:

  • BeIN Sports
  • FuboTV Network
  • El Rey Network
  • Univision
  • Univision TDN (Televisa Deportes Network)
  • BeIN Sports En Vivo
  • Football Report TV
  • Revolt
  • UniMas
  • One World Sports

New sports channels coming in 2017

  • FOX
  • NBC
  • Regional sports networks from FOX Sports and NBC Sports
  • Big Ten Network (BTN)
  • FS1
  • FS2
  • FOX College Sports
  • FOX Soccer Plus
  • FOX Deportes
  • Golf Channel
  • NBA TV
  • NBCSN

New entertainment channels coming in 2017

  • A+E Networks (A&E, History, Lifetime)
  • Hallmark Channel
  • National Geographic
  • Fuse
  • FM
  • NBC Universal (Bravo, CNBC, E!, Oxygen, USA Network)
  • The Weather Channel

It remains to be seen how fuboTV will adjust the composition of its special “add-on” packages for viewers. Currently, fuboTV offers four major add-on packages:

  • Entertainment (4 channels, $2.99/month)
  • Lifestyle (6 channels, $2.99/month)
  • Portuguese (3 channels, $19.99/month)
  • Spanish (7 channels, $3.99/month)

PRICING

What we know now is that fuboTV plans to price its new basic package at a special discounted rate of $34.99 per month, and eventually raise that to $49.99 per month. That puts this live streaming TV service almost directly in line with the pricing offered by DirecTV Now, which also started its promotional pricing at $35 per month. In contrast, current fuboTV pricing for 10 channels is $9.99 per month.

PROS

Ever since its launch in early 2015, fuboTV has attracted a diehard audience of soccer fans, who used the service to watch soccer matches from around the world, including the Premier League, the Brazilian League and MLS. There’s no other streaming service that can offer this type of live soccer programming. And, with the new content from the likes of Fox and NBC, it’s clear that fuboTV is trying to become the streaming service of choice for sports fans in the United States beyond just soccer, to include basketball, golf and other major sports.

Image result for FuboTVBut the advantages are more than just all the great new content. Just like the other streaming TV services, fuboTV is playing up all the differences with cable TV. For example, you can cancel online anytime without having to deal with the customer service department.

And, you can watch fuboTV anywhere on any device. The service is currently supported by iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast. Once you’ve downloaded the fuboTV app, it’s possible to watch it on your TV, your tablet, your smartphone or your laptop computer. All you need is the Internet.

And, as part of its expansion, fuboTV plans to offer several more extras: programming look back (in which you can watch previously aired content), video on-demand, digital TV guide navigation and a cloud DVR service. As it stands now, users will be able to watch shows they’ve recorded on the cloud DVR within a period of 3 days of recording. So, for example, if you missed the NBA basketball game last night, you could record it and then watch it the next day for no extra charge.

Finally, fuboTV offers a very crisp 1080p HD quality live stream, so all of the matches and games look spectacular on your viewing device.

CONS

With any new service, there are always growing pains, and for fuboTV to make such a drastic change in its strategy could impact its core viewers. If you look at what fuboTV plans to offer (lots of American sports, plus entertainment) and compare it to what fuboTV has been offering for the past two years (lots of Spanish- and Portuguese-language soccer games), it’s clear that the service is going to have two very different types of audiences.

And it will have to be careful that it doesn’t alienate these diehard sports fans with a sudden burst in pricing and streaming content options. In short, will people who are paying $9.99 now still want to pay $34.99 in the future for content they may not want to watch?

If you’re a current subscriber, it’s time to ask a lot of questions about what will or won’t be included in the new programming lineup. For example, will the old Entertainment add-on package of 4 channels (Antena 3, TeleHit, Bandamax, Ritmoson) now be included in the core offering of 70+ channels? What happens to all the live soccer online content? And what happens if you want to watch ESPN, which doesn’t seem to be included in the list of new channels?

CONCLUSION

FuboTV has the potential to become the leading sports-centric live streaming service. For anyone thinking of signing up for a live streaming TV service, it will be almost impossible to beat fuboTV’s wide offering of both national and international sports programming.

The service just has to make sure that it clearly states what’s going to happen in 2017. It’s now been a month since the company announced the major programming change, for example, and the fuboTV website still doesn’t even have something like a “Coming Soon” announcement on its homepage. The service is currently offering a free 24-hour trial, so that might be one way to sample it to see if it’s right for you.

Review: DIRECTV Now

DIRECTV Now is the new streaming service from AT&T that just launched at the end of November. Unlike the satellite service DIRECTV, this new service is offered completely over the Internet via live streaming. Think of it as an easier, simpler solution to getting the best content that doesn’t involve annual contracts and hooking up a satellite dish.

What content is available via live streaming?

The first question on everyone’s mind, of course, is what kind of content will be available via streaming. This is AT&T, after all, so the expectation is that there is going to be a lot more content on this service than on competing services. In many ways, DIRECTV Now doesn’t disappoint – it handles much like a slightly slimmed down satellite TV service, but at a more affordable price point.

The entry level package offers all the major TV networks, with just one exception: CBS. So the entry package includes the likes of CNN, ESPN, AMC, CNBC, Discovery, Disney, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC Sports, TBS and Nickelodeon.

At the next higher price point, you can get premium channels like ESPN News, MLB Network, NBA TV and BBC World News all bundled together.

For fans of HBO and Cinemax, there’s even the option to add them for only $5 each per month. To give you an idea of how great a deal that is, the cost of standalone streaming either of those would be $14.99 per month. When you order HBO and Cinemax via DIRECTV Now, you also get authenticated access to their apps, so you also get to watch them on your mobile devices, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection.

Pricing of DIRECTV Now

As part of a special promotional rate that was valid up until the middle of January, it was possible to get the “Go Big” package of 100+ live channels at a discounted rate of $35 per month. Going up to the next price tier – $70 per month – would get you 120 channels, so it’s easy to guess which option most consumers chose as long as AT&T was offering the special promotional rate. In short, $35 was a steal.

And, just to sweeten the pot, DIRECTV Now doesn’t require a contract or any kind of lock-in. This is supposed to be TV, the way you want it. There’s no equipment to buy, either.

At the end of the promotional period, the plan was to raise the price up to $60 for the basic package. So, if you add in both HBO and Cinemax, that would be $70 per month. That’s not cheap, but compared to cable – where nearly one-third of consumers pay more than $100 per month, it’s very affordable.

There’s one other pricing twist to keep in mind. If you’re an AT&T wireless customer, then there might be a better economic argument for choosing this service. That’s because watching video on DIRECTV Now doesn’t count against your data limits. So, for example, if you’re watching a two-hour movie from DIRECTV Now on your AT&T wireless tablet, that wouldn’t be included in your monthly data cap. So, it’s easy to see how some customers might be tempted to drop their existing wireless service provider, sign up for AT&T, and then order DIRECTV Now.

Competitive landscape

The big question, of course, is how consumers will view the new service. Is it a Netflix replacement? Or just a cable TV replacement? And which live streaming service does it most resemble? Based on initial consumer feedback, it looks like DIRECTV Now is basically a replacement for DIRECTV. The live streaming competitor mentioned most often by consumers is Sling TV, which you can get for $20 per month.

That pricing is going to present some problems for DIRECTV Now, especially since the price is now $60 and not $35. So you’re comparing a $20 per month service to a $60 per month service. So what does DIRECTV offer that Sling TV doesn’t?

That’s an easy question to answer: a ton more archived content that can be played on-demand. DIRECTV boasts that it has more than 10,000 titles available on demand. That’s easily as many titles as you might expect from a mainstream cable TV or satellite TV provider.

Which is why it’s hard to shake the feeling that DIRECTV Now is basically going to siphon away some of the DIRECTV audience. Wouldn’t you switch over if you could avoid the contract and get almost the same amount of content without changing your provider and getting some cheaper pricing as an extra kicker?

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Quality issues

The major problem facing DIRECTV Now are nagging questions about quality. The concern among consumers is that AT&T might have tried to rush this product to market without fixing all the bugs. Just check out social media – the complaints keep rolling in about glitches, freezes, buffering errors, and app crashes.

In fact, there’s a real consumer backlash growing on social media, with a lot of people saying they plan to quit after the promotional pricing runs out. Others are actually threatening to sue DIRECTV Now after they got permanently logged out of their account and couldn’t get back in. Essentially, they’re saying that AT&T pocketed their $35 monthly fees without providing the agreed upon service. Let’s just hope these are “teething troubles,” as one business news source called them.

Other features

There’s one more issue that needs to be cleared up about this new DIRECTV Now service, and that’s the need for extra equipment. Technically, if you’re planning only to watch TV on mobile devices (i.e. a tablet or phone), you don’t need any equipment, and certainly not any satellite dish. And, if you’re planning on watching on your laptop, you just watch by heading over to DIRECTVnow.com.

However, what happens if you’re planning on watching on your home TV? That’s where things get interesting, because you will need some kind of set-top box to play the content and access the menu. There’s no AT&T set-top box – instead, you need to have something like an Apple TV or Chromecast. During the promotional period, DIRECTV Now was giving away a free Apple TV worth $149 if you agreed to pay the first three months upfront.

Moreover, one drawback to the service is a lack of a DVR, although AT&T says that it plans to add one soon. So there’s no way to watch shows without commercials, like you might with a cable TV or satellite TV subscription.

Conclusions

So, summing up all the pros and cons, the major pro is an amazing amount of content, both live and on-demand. The pricing is also attractive, but not nearly as attractive if you can’t get the promotional rate. In terms of cons, the overall quality of the service has to be named as one. And the need for a set-top box if you don’t already have one is also an issue.

The consensus: if you want to cut the cord, but still want the safety of knowing that you have access to almost all the content you would with a regular cable TV provider, then this service might make sense for you. Moreover, if you only plan on watching via an app on your tablet or on your laptop, then this also might make sense. But if you’re planning to have regular “family nights” in front of the TV, then it’s easy to see how a cheaper service like Sling TV might make a more compelling option for now – at least until DIRECTV Now works out all the glitches in its service.

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A Technology to Watch in 2017: OLED TVs

The television industry continues to seek out innovative new technologies in the constant pursuit of providing the best possible TV viewing experience. The latest entrant in the game is the OLED TV, where OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diodes. What the OLED TV promises is much greater color accuracy, a wider viewer angle, and much more vibrant images.

Right now, there are only two major tech companies – LG and Panasonic – that are manufacturing OLED TVs for the consumer market. For a time, Samsung was going to move into OLED TVs, but due to production costs, no longer has any plans to use OLED screens. Instead, the company will focus on using OLED screens for its smartphones and tablets.

How are OLED TVs different from LCD TVs?

The key difference between the OLED TV and the LCD TV has to do with how the pixels on the screen are lit. With an OLED display, the pixels themselves provide the source of light; with a conventional LCD display, the pixels are backlit. That may sound like a minor difference, but it produces an exceptionally different picture experience.

With the OLED display, you are able to get a pixel to turn completely off if it needs to be black. You can’t do that with an LCD display. Instead, with an LCD display, you are only getting a “relative” black, not an “absolute” black. A pixel only looks black because it is darker than all the other pixels on the screen, not because it’s actually black. With an OLED display, it’s essentially possible to control every pixel since every pixel can be turned on or off. The result is a superior image that appears to the eye to be amazingly vibrant.

What are some of the other advantages of OLED televisions?

Another unique feature is the curved shape of many OLED screens. This actually provides a superior viewing experience as well, because it introduces the idea of wide viewing angles. With a conventional LCD television, you need to be viewing the image head-on; otherwise it’s difficult to view. That’s not the case with a curved OLED screen – even if you are not sitting on the living room couch right in front of the TV, you can still get an optimal viewing experience.

Another advantage to OLED televisions is that, compared to a LCD TV, they are much thinner and lighter. This has led some to suggest that OLED TVs are “environmentally friendly” because they don’t require as much power to run them, and because it’s easier to ship them around the country without leaving behind quite as big a carbon footprint. (However, that’s not really a technological advantage – that’s more of a marketing advantage.)

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The pricing of OLED TVs

However, all those advantages don’t come with some high costs. In fact, for someone used to paying just a few hundred bucks for an LCD TV, the act of going into a retail store like Best Buy to check out the new OLED TVs may give you sticker shock.

For example, this holiday season, Best Buy is running a special promotion on its LG OLED televisions, in which you can pick up an LG 55-inch OLED TV for as low as $2,499. There are even some 55-inch models available for $3,499.

Wait, what?

Yes, the cheapest LG OLED TV available this holiday season at Best Buy will set you back close to $2,500. And the base price for an LG 65-inch OLED TV is $3,999, although prices can range all the way up to $7,999. And if you really want to wow your holiday guests this season, you can always pick up a 77-inch OLED set for $19,999.

Those prices may seem incredible, but they’re actually a lot lower than they used to be. The first-ever LG 55-inch OLED TV that went on sale in 2013 cost $10,000. So a price of $2,500 for a 55-inch set these days is a relative bargain.

The problem, quite simply, is that it’s still very expensive to produce these televisions, and companies have to pass on these high costs to the customer. And, as seen above, the minimum size for an OLED TV these days is 55 inches, which is probably well more than the average TV viewer wants or needs.

Moreover, there’s just not enough competition in the industry to help bring down prices. Panasonic only unveiled its first OLED TV in September 2015. And Samsung is out of the business entirely, so that means consumers basically have to pay whatever LG asks them to pay if they want a premium OLED TV.

Alternatives to OLED

It’s not surprising, then, that the OLED TV has not yet supplanted the LCD TV as the de facto industry standard. It may be a superior technology, but it’s still too expensive to make a major splash in the television market.

Moreover, LCD TV manufacturers keep coming up with new innovations that make their LCD TVs comparable to OLED TVs. One of these innovations is new Ultra HD 4K technology, which increases the resolution of the TV screen from 1080p to 4K. Four times the number of pixels means four times higher resolution.

And, in response to criticism that higher resolution doesn’t necessarily imply better picture quality, LCD TV manufacturers have been experimenting with High-Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, which will result in a more vibrant image. Darks will appear darker and brights will appear brighter.

What’s ahead for the OLED TV?

At next year’s CES technology trade show in Las Vegas, scheduled for January 2017, look for the world’s top technology brands to unveil the latest and greatest when it comes to television technology. Most likely, we will see new innovations from LG when it comes to OLED technology. And that could mean more than just a superior picture. At the 2015 CES, for example, LG unveiled the world’s first “bendable” TV!

The real tipping point for OLED TVs might occur if the price point can be brought down to $1,500 or even $1,000. That might just convince the average TV viewer to abandon old LCD technology in favor of the best, most vibrant TV viewing experience possible today: OLED.

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Will VR Make Traditional Forms of Visual Entertainment Obsolete?

Yes, it is possible. Well, maybe not completely. But in the defining way, VR may make traditional entertainment options a lot less popular. The question – how can the VR devices completely replace traditional forms of visual entertainment like television obsolete – might seem ridiculous. So, for starters, just think back some 25 years ago. Would anybody have thought that video rental stores would not be required, because people will be able to download content on-demand from the internet? Could anybody have predicted that fixed line phones would no longer be a necessity, because mobile phones would completely take over? These and many other such questions would have a straight up ‘No’ for an answer. But, they all did happen with the advent of streaming services, mobile phones, and what not. This is how technology works and 25 years is a long time in technology.

The trends are all in the favor of VR. In a report that came out recently, Goldman Sachs has estimated that the VR market will generate more revenues than the television industry within a decade. It has predicted that while the television industry will do a total business of $99 billion in the next ten years, VR will be generating an income of $72 billion in software and $110 billion in hardware, coming to a total of $182 billion. This is almost double of what television manufacturers are going to earn. This is mind-blowing!

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, the creator of Oculus Rift, has always been open about his vision for the VR technology. He has gone on record to say that he has no doubt that VR is going to be the future of entertainment. His argument is logical too. Palmer says that as the demand for the technology increases, the price for the VR goggles is only going to go down. So, more and more people are going to own them. In such a world, the user can have an interactive and completely immersive experience for the price of a low end smartphone. Now, Palmer’s argument is that when people can get such an experience with VR, there will be no need to buy a television set, even at lower prices, while paying the cost of shipping for a 40” screen.

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Now, a counter to that argument can be that television might not be an immersive experience, but a communal one. When you watch television, you are sitting with your family, having conversations while eating a meal, and so on. Of course, you can eat and be with your family while wearing VR goggles as well. But, it is not the experience that you can share. Also, you can be with your favorite actor in the video, but not with your friends. This is the kind of entertainment experience television delivers.

Moreover, VR goggles completely block the real world view. So, you are oblivious to what is happening in your immediate environment. This makes you very vulnerable to accidents. You may have heard about the Pokemon Go incidents that are happening, because people are completely involved in the augmented reality that has been presented to them. Virtual reality is completely immersive, which can become a major safety concern. If you are wondering what accident you could be prone to when you are on your ultra-comfortable couch in a peaceful suburb, then here’s is the answer – you might not hear your crying baby. You may not see the vibrating phone beside you or will be able to realize that someone needs your help. Sure, the companies will be working towards mitigating the security concerns for its users. But, in its current form, there is no real solution. So, a consumer grade product that can be used as extensively as a television is far from reality.

People will surely own a VR goggle to enjoy the experience, and may soon become a novelty product in most living rooms. But, it is hard to say that they will completely forego that unique experience that the traditional modes of entertainment bring to the table. So, the VR market is undoubtedly going to be big. But, these factors put a big question mark on the idea that it will be a mass market.

At best, VR can become another way to consume entertainment in the future, but it has a long way to go and a lot of its issues need to be addressed before it can become a mainstream product of choice. Today, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were two or three decades ago. So, it is possible that we find a solution to all the caveats that VR presents. For now, VR is no match for a television. Then again, it is almost impossible to predict what trajectory technology will take in the future.

virtual-reality-make-other-entertainment-obsolete

What is TVSquared?

TVSquared is quite a hot topic among the marketing professionals across all business circles. It has gained immense popularity, especially in the recent months. But, if you have not heard about it, then don’t worry. It is a service that is generally used by businesses with sizeable pockets. The reason is that TVSquared is a powerful TV advertising attribution platform that helps advertisers calculate the ROI of various television campaigns designed by the marketers.

TVSquared is a powerful technological solution that considers a variety of factors, various media options, and other contact points between the businesses and their audience, to understand the impact caused by various marketing activities on a business’ audience. There are many services in the market that can provide reliable information on when to schedule your marketing campaigns on television, and also help you understand their impact on your audience. But, TVSquared goes a step ahead from the rest of them.

The company features two solutions for the businesses – ADvantage and Predict. Both of the solutions are interrelated, and provide the best results when used together. The ADvantage platform allows the businesses to track the performance of their television advertisement campaigns in real time. If you are wondering what is so special about them, think about it. It is not so easy to track the performance of television ads. Suppose, you watch a camera ad on television, and happen to visit the website. But, you do not purchase the camera right away. However, a week or so later, you click on a link on Facebook, and come to the same website again. But, this time you make the purchase. So, what would factor would you attribute for your purchase – the TV ad or Facebook link? The ADvantage platform recognizes the contribution made by both the platforms. In your case, it attributes the conversion success to both TV ad and Facebook. However, the contribution from both TV and Facebook are calculated depending on how much time you spent on the website, each time. If you spent more time the first time you visited the website, then ADvantage assigns the television a larger share of the success in your conversion, and vice versa.

This is what makes the service unique. It considers multiple factors that affect audience’s conversion into buying customers. Thus, it provides a far more accurate and insightful look into the behavior of the television audience.

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Predict, on the other hand, is a powerful solution to “predict” the response to your TV ads even before you embarked on an ad campaign. This particular product makes use of the historical data from ADvantage, and employs machine learning techniques to predict the performance of ads that will be aired during a particular airtime. This has tremendous implications. Just imagine. Instead of just guessing when to schedule your ads, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could schedule your ads at the airtime when you are guaranteed to get desirable results? Predict makes that possible.

So far, TVSquared’s both products have been immensely popular, and rightly so. It is estimated that the two products result in a 25% decrease in cost to the advertisers on their ad campaigns, and a 30% increase in their conversions, which can be purchases, signups, or something else.

The impressive potential of the service has naturally attracted the advertisers from all across the world. The company already serves more than 300 clients from over 40 countries.

The applications of the two products are not limited to just minimizing costs. They provide a wealth of analytics information that is invaluable to businesses. TVSquared has successfully managed to bring the mainstream television advertisement to the internet age. With the power of ADvantage and Predict, markets can plan and schedule the TV ads just the way they do with digital ads. They allow the marketers to explain the performance and predicted performances of TV campaigns in terms of site visits, CPM, conversions, sales, CPC, and so on, thus enabling them to strategize a seamless media campaign encompassing both digital as well as TV ads.

It takes does a genius to see that TVSquared is all set to bring a paradigm shift in how TV ad buyers conduct their business. They will now be held accountable as per the same metrics that online ad buyers are. So, they will have to adapt, and rethink their TV ad buying strategies. The results they deliver will be watched closely, and continuously compared with those of the online ad buyers. After all, every business wishes to pursue media options that bring about the highest ROI, which can be achieved either by reducing costs, or by increasing revenues.

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HDR Technology: A Simple Guide to the Next Revolution in Television

It’s late 2016 already, and 4K continues to gain popularity like wildfire. So, what is the next big thing in television then? 8K? Augmented Reality? Well, actually the answer is HDR or High Dynamic Range.

If you have been shopping for a television lately, or have been following tech news related to the television industry, then it’s impossible that you’ve missed HDR. Frankly, HDR has been the talk of the town for all of 2016.

You might have heard from TV manufacturers that there are many kinds of HDR: advertisers will always be advertisers, and in their hunger to differentiate their products, they will mislead the consumers. Take their words with a grain of salt. There actually aren’t that many HDR technologies floating around the electronics industry. In fact, there are only two approaches to HDR as far as televisions are concerned. But before we get into all the nitty-gritty details, let us first understand what HDR is.

What is High Dynamic Range?

If you own any of the fairly recent smartphones, then you’ve probably come across the HDR option in the camera. When you click a picture in HDR mode, a camera will take a range of photos at multiple exposures simultaneously, and then combine them together to produce a final picture that is more dynamic. This way, the bright regions are brighter, and the dark regions are darker than a regular picture. However, this is only HDR with respect to photography.

When it comes to television, the High Dynamic Range works slightly differently. HDR video recordings retain a much larger brightness range. They contain a much wider breadth of the visible light spectrum, which makes television picture quality much sharper and crisp. It’s the closest to what your naked eye sees in the real world. You may have noticed that many of the low-end to mid-price segment cameras tend to miss out on the small details in low light conditions. Cameras equipped with HDR can capture images just like our eyes see in low light conditions.

The great thing about HDR is that you don’t have to invest in a TV the size of your wall to actually notice it. Even small and medium size televisions can come equipped with this technology. And the result? The quality of pictures on your HDR TV will be as brilliant as those on high-end cinema screens, which is why HDR will revolutionize the television industry.

hdr-tv-quality

So, when can I start watching HDR content?

Well, there is a catch. The catch is what it typically is in the industry – format war. Remember HD DVD vs Blu-Ray, DVD vs DIVX, etc? Now similar battles are happening in HDR, but this time, the format war is between the two approaches to HDR itself.

One approach to HDR is developed by the manufacturing giants Sony and Samsung: HDR10. This format has already gained widespread traction in the entertainment industry. A number of movie studios, industry associations, and content providers are already backing this technology.

The other format is developed by one of the biggest names in audio technology – Dolby. Dolby’s homegrown HDR format – Dolby Vision – is at least easy to remember.

HDR10 is topping the Google Trends charts, in comparison to Dolby Vision, but that doesn’t mean Dolby Vision is taking a nose-dive. It’s gaining popularity, but not as much as HDR10. In fact, those who matter in the industry have been happy to accommodate both the formats. Television manufacturers, especially LG and Vizio, have developed their TVs to support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Likewise, content producers and providers like Netflix and Amazon have already backed both the technologies.

At present, it appears that the industry will continue to support both the standards, and this is good news for TV viewers. Now that most of the wrinkles have been straightened out, customers will soon be able to enjoy HDR-compatible content on their televisions.

How do I check whether my TV supports HDR?

It’s quite simple. Manufacturers are happy to announce to the customers that the television they are buying is HDR compatible. So, you can see the same mentioned in the list of specifications on the box in which the TV ships, as well in the manuals that are shipped with it. If you want to buy television sets that support both formats of HDR, then great. Alternatively, if you want an inexpensive TV, then you can buy one that supports at least one of the HDR formats. As the content will be produced to support both formats, you will still be able to enjoy content in HDR.

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Which HDR format is the future?

The main reason why HDR10 is more popular than Dolby Vision is that HDR10 technology is a standard developed by a group of industry members. Hence, the technology is open for adoption by everyone. On the other hand, anyone who wants their hardware to support Dolby Vision has to buy a license from Dolby. Plus they need dedicated Dolby Vision decoder chip in their hardware. There are other differences between the two technologies, but the license fee is the most important one. This is the primary reason why Dolby Vision-compatible TVs are only handful in number.

Most HDR TVs support HDR10, irrespective of whether they support Dolby Vision or not. but it’s too early to say which one will triumph over the other in the future. As far as the consumer is concerned, there is no need to worry about this war. Most TVs are indeed compatible with both formats, making their televisions future-proof.

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What do I need to enjoy HDR-compatible programs, and how can I do it now?

The first thing you have to understand about HDR is that it’s an end-to-end technology. To enjoy HDR content, it has to be supported all the way through. What this means is that the content must first be produced in HDR quality; it must be broadcasted on HDR-compatible systems; then, it has to be viewed on HDR compatible televisions.

As you can see, you might have an HDR compatible TV in your living room., but unless you have a source that brings HDR compatible content to you, you cannot enjoy content in HDR on your television. As of now, very few services offer HDR-compatible content, the likes of which include Amazon, Netflix, VUDU, FandangoNow, and some others. These services are pioneering the adoption of HDR. As they manage to get more HDR content into the mainstream, cable channels and other streaming services will be under pressure to match them as well. Considering the way things are going now, you can expect to enjoy a lot of HDR compatible content by early 2017.

For now though, you can stick with the ones mentioned above that support HDR content.

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Do all HDR TVs produce the same type of images?

It is perfectly logical to think that two TVs manufactured by two manufacturers that use same technology (in this case, HDR), should produce similar quality images. But in reality, there can be significant differences. Apart from the HDR technology, there are a lot of other technologies that a particular TV can support, and each manufacturer uses a lot of different technologies in their televisions: so, the combined effect of these technologies is a unique final image for different televisions.

Each TV comes with its own range of brightness, contrast, resolution, color gradient, and other specifications that have their own effect on the HDR picture quality.

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What televisions are the best for enjoying HDR programs?

There is no universally accepted “best HDR TV,” or specifications. To their credit, the Ultra HD Alliance has come up with a set of specifications for color, brightness, and resolution for HDR compatible TVs. The televisions that qualify for these factors are awarded the badge of Ultra HD Premium by the Alliance. However, not all TV manufactures are enamored by this badge, so they ignore it completely and simply promote their products as HDR compatible.

Despite this, there are ways in which you can differentiate between different HDR compatible televisions. LCD TVs use external light sources, which can cause light-related issues like brightness problems. The answer to this is OLED TVs: in OLED TVs, each pixel produces its own light, eliminating the light-induced problems of LCD TVs. However, OLED TVs are not capable of achieving the same peak brightness levels as that of LCD TVs. Nevertheless, the picture quality on OLED TVs is significantly better than LCD TVs due to the improved contrast, but consequently, OLED TVs are much more expensive than LCD TVs. So, even two HDR-compatible TVs that work on different technology can produce different image qualities.

It’s ultimately up to you to decide what type of TV you like. More peak brightness or better contrast?

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Conclusion

Since this is actually a point of concern, you can soon expect there to be another war on these aspects of HDR as well. There could be competition between HDR TV manufacturers to produce higher peak brightness, better contrasts, and so on.

HDR is the technology that is going to drive the next big wave in the television market, and it will be interesting to see where it will take the industry. All Aboard!

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