Despite the fact that the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) debuted a number of 8K TV sets this year, 4K TVs are only just beginning to emerge in consumer living rooms. In fact, research from Mintel’s Movie Sales and Rentals US 2015 report shows that only 9% of Americans own a 4K UHD TV. Retailers have been ramping up 4K TV promotions, which will help move the needle on adoption as we move further into 2016. What’s more, looking at the last six months of emails for both 2014-2015, volumes of retail emails with subject lines featuring 4K TVs exhibited a 150% year-over-year increase, according to Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource.

As 4K TV adoption gradually ticks upward, TV and streaming video providers have been rolling out and promoting their own 4K capabilities. Since early 2015, we’ve watched providers move their efforts steadily ahead, ensuring that they will be ready when 4K TVs become the household norm.

Although most streaming video providers currently offer some degree of 4K content, they have not been actively promoting 4K in direct marketing efforts. On streaming provider websites and blogs you will find messaging about 4K content, suggesting that these providers are putting the word out, but aren’t necessarily ready to invest significant marketing dollars behind 4K just yet.

As one example, streaming video provider VUDU posted to its blog during CES 2016 that “if you want to check out the latest in technology, you don’t have to be in Vegas because VUDU UHD is here!” The post goes on to assert that “over two dozen movies are now available on VUDU UHD.” The fact that the provider is touting a mere 24 4K movies reinforces the point that content is still very limited.

Canadian pay-TV provider Rogers established itself as a 4K pioneer, delivering the first 4K live sporting event in North America

The story looks a bit different, however, when examining 4K marketing and content from Canadian pay-TV providers. Marketing for 4K set-top boxes in Canada began after Videotron launched its Ultra-HD PVR in August. Videotron has been quick to emphasize the fact that its set-top box was the first 4K PVR in Canada throughout its advertisements.

Rogers is establishing itself as a 4K pioneer. The provider has been heavily targeting sports fans with its 4K marketing efforts for months. Among the 100+ hours of UHD content the provider has promised for 2016, Rogers has said it will deliver all 2016 Toronto Blue Jays games in 4K.

So far in 2016, Rogers hasn’t wasted any time delivering live sports in 4K. The provider offered the first 4K live sporting event broadcast in North America when the Toronto Raptors took on the Orlando Magic in January. During the same month, Rogers also delivered the first NHL 4K broadcast. Plus, ahead of its big 4K broadcasting debut, Rogers smartly took advantage of the holidays to encourage consumers to purchase a 4K TV, emailing gift guides to customers in early December with—you guessed it—4K TV purchasing tips.

Bell is also leading North America into live 4K broadcasting. The provider built excitement for its 4K capabilities in December with ads announcing that 4K picture quality would be “coming to Fibe TV in January.” Sure enough, Bell has already started offering live 4K content for its Fibe TV customers.

In the US, providers have continued building awareness of 4K. AT&T’s DIRECTV continues to notify customers of its commitment to 4K UHD. Additionally, Comcast, which offers an XFINITY in UHD app, used direct mail to invite consumers to start enjoying the app with 4K content. At CES 2016, Dish announced a variety of 4K Sony Pictures films, as well as that select 4K movies would be available on its upcoming Hopper 3 and 4K Joey. Additionally, Dish highlighted Netflix’s 4K content, which will also be accessible through its 4K devices.

Opportunities for marketers

Marketers should do all they can to promote 4K capabilities as soon as they are available. Even though the adoption of 4K TVs is still relatively low, anyone who has one will be looking for 4K content wherever they can find it.

Partnerships with 4K TV manufacturers are a smart way for providers to establish relationships with 4K TV owners early on. We observed this in Samsung UHDTV promotions over the summer, when Samsung promoted a one-year subscription to Netflix 4K with the purchase of select TVs. This deal not only let the new 4K TV owner know that Netflix offers 4K content, but also put Netflix 4K content at their fingertips immediately.

Finally, marketers should make every effort to target groups that have shown higher adoption of 4K TVs. Specifically, Mintel research found that adoption was higher among Hispanics (15%), urbanites (15%) and males 18-24 (18%). Until 4K TVs reach wider adoption, marketers of 4K services need to keep these groups of early adopters in mind.

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications. She provides omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to wireless, TV, internet, over-the-top, and home security service providers across the US and Canada.

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