You may have run across this story a couple weeks ago: tonight’s game between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium will be broadcast in 8K.
“8K” is a short name for something that might seem somewhat big and confusing to understand, but I will try to explain it in simple terms.
If you already have a standard HD TV, its maximum resolution in pixels is 1920 (in width) x 1080 (in height). This is the same kind of screen resolution terminology used for your laptop or computer monitor, and you can see what that is right now by going to WhatIsMyScreenResolution.com. Maybe your computer already uses 1920 x 1080, which would match an HD TV. My laptop comes in at 1600 x 900. The most common computer screen resolution is 1366 x 768.
The next big advancement in screen resolution for TVs is 4K, which has a max resolution of 3840 x 2160. How did they come up with the name “4K”? Because 3840 is close to 4,000; thus, “4K”. If you like the resolution you get on your current HD TV, you will love the resolution of a 4K TV, which you can see for yourself by going to any store that has an electronics department.
So, you can get a 4K TV today if you want, but you won’t be able to see much 4K content on it. Even though top providers like DirecTV and Comcast’s Xfinity already have 4K boxes customers can obtain, only a few odd movie titles and TV series even offer true 4K, and none of that content includes major networks like ESPN, HBO, USA … or, sadly, anything MLB. That should change within the next few years, but for now, unless you have too much money sitting around or you crave cutting edge technology, you probably want to wait before buying a 4K TV set.
OK, so, what about 8K? The screen resolution for 8K is 7680 x 4320, which is four times sharper than a 4K resolution, and even though 4K as a technology has fairly recently been released and is probably within a couple of years of widespread adoption, 8K is already nipping on its heels. In fact, some industry insiders are predicting that 8K is coming on so fast that it won’t even make sense for consumers to get a 4K set, because by the time 4K is ready to become commonplace, something four times as good will be ready to go. (That prediction doesn’t take into account the possibility of a coordinated controlled rollout strategy by electronics manufacturers so they can maximize revenue from 4K technology before they start an 8K rollout, but this isn’t a forum for the discussion on the nature of free markets versus corporate collusion.)
All of which brings us full circle back to tonight’s Mariners-Yankees game: it’s going to be broadcast in 8K. But you and I and everybody else aren’t going to be able to see it, so why bother? They are bothering because they want to gauge the feasibility of broadcasting the game in higher-than-today’s high definition, which includes both 8K and 4K. Eventually, the new technology will be taken advantage of, so they want to start that evaluation process tonight by viewing an 8K-resolution game in the one Yankee Stadium suite in which it will be available in order to answer the question, “Can this actually be a thing?”
Major League Baseball probably does have a while to think about and work on it, though. Current estimates call for 22 million 4K TV shipments by 2017 and 1 million 8K TV shipments by 2019. That might sound like a lot, but considering we live in a world with 1.5 billion TV households, including about 116 million in the US, you can see that there is a long way to go before most households will have either one, and most likely not until 2020-something.
So, it will probably be a while before you and I shell out the bucks for something better than the HD sets we have today. But it’s also good to know what’s coming down the pike, too.
(NOTE: I had to do a significant edit to change the explanation how they arrived at 4K and 8K as an explanation. As the kids of 1995 like to say, “my bad”.)