Wave of HDR announcements promises to heat up moribund 4K market in U.S.

While deployment of 4K/Ultra High-Definition services by pay-TV operators has remained stalled at the starting gate for pay-TV operators in the U.S., a wave of products and services centered out the complimentary High Dynamic Range (HDR) tech is promising to kickstart the market.

Notably, insiders at Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) say the company is rushing to deploy its Xi6 set-top — capable of both HDR and 4K display — in time for the Summer Olympic Games in July. Comcast reps would not confirm this information, which belies a current play to deploy the Xi5 (capable of only HDR and not 4K) this summer, with the Xi6 debuting later on this year.

Comcast executives view HDR as the technology that turns 4K into a service that will be handled by cable installers on a far more ubiquitous level.

"If you've seen side-by-side comparisons of current-market [4K] TVs and next-generation TVs [with HDR], you can see the difference," said Scott Boyarsky, Comcast's VP of product development and planning, speaking on a CES panel earlier this month. "There really hasn't been a compelling reason to take a 60-inch HD TV that's hanging on the wall and replace it with a 4K set."

Other operators are setting HDR deployments, as well, with the technology also native to Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) new 4K-capable third-generation Hopper DVR.

Announcements by pay-TV operators come as virtually ever major consumer electronics brand is introducing HDR in their display products.

Among a flurry of HDR-related announcements made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, Sony introduced a new line of XBR series 4K TVs, for example, including HDR compatibility with new backlighting tech.

Samsung, LG and Panasonic also debuted HDR-capable 4K sets.

Comcast and DirecTV introduced limited 4K services a year ago, both based on apps made for newer model Samsung televisions and limited amounts of downloadable 4K movie titles. Since that small flurry of announcements, however, little movement in the U.S. pay-TV market has been made.

Consumers see a difference, Boyarsky added, when they "walk into Best Buy and see a sign that says not just more pixels, but more range, more depth."

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