Crowning glory for ultra-high definition

The television pictures of the coronation of King Charles III were incredibly impressive, whatever your view of the event. They were captured in ultra-high-definition and high dynamic range by the BBC, which provided the coverage for the international feed. The irony is that the vivid details could only be seen online on the BBC iPlayer. The BBC only broadcast pictures in high definition, while Sky and Virgin could carry them in their full ultra-high-definition glory.

A total of seven outside broadcast vehicles from four different companies were used to provide the coverage. Considerable care was taken to ensure consistency of output from each of the trucks, which used different cameras and systems. The hybrid log-gamma function, jointly developed by the BBC and NHK, was used to deliver high dynamic range, preserving details in the shadows and highlights. The increased colour gamut of the ultra-high-definition pictures also provided more faithful colour reproduction.

Of over a hundred cameras used in the production, all but two used high dynamic range. For the first time, the quick turnaround editors recorded and edited high-dynamic range pictures for playout from the outside broadcast trucks.

The pictures were downscaled and interlaced for delivery in high-definition. To monitor the spatial and temporal filtering and colour space down-mapping, a specially created version of the famous BBC testcard was used. This is based on the BT.2100 colour space and hybrid log-gamma function, so may not display correctly here.

BBC UHD testcard

While the BBC offered its enhanced coverage online through the BBC iPlayer, most viewers were watching the down-converted output. However, they still benefited from the higher acquisition and production quality.

The official viewing figures from BARB show that the average audience for the coronation on BBC One was 12.04 million, with 9.96 million watching live, a 59% share of the audience at the time, and just under 2 million watching within seven days.

A further 3.35 million watched the coverage on ITV, with just under 3 million of them watching live. That was slightly fewer than the number that watched the serial drama Coronation Street the night before.

The BBC previously reported that an average of 18.8 million people watched the coronation across 11 channels and services, including BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, and Sky News, with audiences peaking at 20.4 million as the King was crowned, just after midday.

Sky and Virgin Media O2 carried coverage in full UHD and the results were truly impressive. The pictures popped in comparison to high-definition pictures, offering far greater clarity and fidelity. This was particularly evident in the textures of fabrics.

And these pictures will be available for posterity as a record of the pomp and ceremony of the historic occasion. No doubt they will seem as anachronistic to future generations as the grainy black and white pictures of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II seventy years ago, seen as quite remarkable at the time on a typical 9-inch screen.

Subscriber attrition in the United States

The leading television subscription services in the United States lost more subscribers in the first quarter of 2023 than in any previous quarter. The subscriber losses were not only across traditional cable and satellite platforms but also affected some of the leading online multichannel services.

Comcast lost 614,000 cable television subscribers, which was almost a 4% decline, taking its total to 15.53 million. Charter lost 241,000 subscribers, down to 14.91 million. Altice lost 60,500, with a total of 2.48 million.

DIRECTV shed 350,000 subscribers, or almost 4.5% of its base, which fell to 12.75 million. DISH TV lost 318,000 satellite customers, leading it with 7.10 million.

Verizon Fios lost 76,000 telco television customers, down to 3.23 million.

Between them, these six leading service providers that report figures lost 1.70 million subscribers, although they still had a total of almost 56 million television customers.

Significantly, online multichannel services also reported subscriber losses.

Among online television services, Hulu Live TV lost 100,000, for a total of 4.40 million, Sling TV shed 234,000 to 2.10 million, and Fubo lost 160,000, leaving it with 1.29 million.

These three online services lost almost half a million subscribers in three months.

Taken together, that led to a loss of 2.16 million television subscribers across these leading services, or about 3.4% of their subscriber base.

However, between them they still have 63.78 million television subscribers, out of around 74 million homes that subscribe to television services in the United States.

Netflix adverts reach 5 million users

Netflix revealed that it has nearly five million monthly active users to the advertising tier of its service. It is not a big number, six months after the launch of a lower cost Netflix subscription supported by advertising. Yet the news added billions to the market value of the company.

Netflix launched a lower cost subscription with adverts in November 2022. A basic subscription with adverts costs $6.99 in the United States, compared to a basic subscription for $9.99 without adverts, or a standard subscription with full high definition for $15.49 or a premium package with ultra-high-definition for $19.99.

Advertising supported plans are available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In its first ‘upfront’ advertising presentation, held online, Netflix president of worldwide advertising Jeremi Gorman said that six months after launch the advertising tier of the service has nearly five million global monthly active users.

That is less than five million users, not subscribers, which does not sound like a lot. That is not five million people watching an advert. It is five million users that might be able to watch one.

The news appeared to please investors, prompting a rise in the value of Netflix shares to a 52-week high, although way off its peak in 2021.

Netflix has not reported on subscriber numbers for its advertising tier, although it said it has more than doubled since early this year. It also says that more than a quarter of signups in countries where the ad plan is available choose that option.

The global total number of Netflix subscriptions is 232.5 million. It added just 1.75 million in the first quarter of 2023, most of them in the Asia Pacific region.

Netflix Paid Subscriptions 2018-2023 Q1. Source: informitv / company reports

It may well be early days for Netflix in the advertising market, but five million is not a big number, particularly when it is spread across 12 territories.

Ted Sarandos, the co-chief executive of Netflix, suggested a possible new format of advert that plays out over several days and follows subscribers as they watch different shows on the service. “This isn’t going to happen overnight, and maybe not even next year,” he said. “It’s just one idea.”

Some analysts estimate that Netflix may have only a million subscribers on its advertising tier in the United States. In comparison, Hulu has 45 million. YouTube has 2.5 billion users worldwide.