Panasonic, Sony Partner for 8K Broadcasts at Tokyo Olympics

At the Rio Olympics, Japanese broadcaster NHK conducted tests of 8K video, broadcasting footage from the games and a variety of other 8K content, including a J-pop concert by star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. These tests were just the latest step in NHK’s methodical plan to unveil 8K video at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. To achieve this goal, Panasonic and Sony are partnering with NHK and others for an all-Japanese alliance to create the required technology. Producing 8K is no small feat, with a resolution four times that of 4K among its other features.

The Verge reports that Nikkei revealed the new partnership, also noting the “extreme rarity” of 8K TV sets. Sharp introduced the first-ever commercially available 8K TV set last October, priced at ¥16 million ($160,000). In Rio, NHK got around that problem by establishing public 8K viewing stations for attendees to watch its broadcasts.

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The Panasonic/Sony partnership aims to improve the situation: Sony has announced its plans to sell 8K TVs in 2020 and Panasonic is manufacturing them, but hasn’t yet set a date for their availability. Although Panasonic and Sony are competitors, working together is a practical step enabling them to develop the technology while no market yet exists.

NHK, which says it will begin “full-scale broadcasting” 8K in 2018, has a history as a technology pioneer, “broadcasting HDTV back in the 1980s, more than a decade before the resolution became widely available.”

“Panasonic and Sony are expected to apply 8K technology to a variety of other devices as well, such as digital cameras,” notes Nikkei. “They and the rest of the Japanese alliance hope to seize the initiative on next-generation broadcasting technology with government support, bringing it to the world on Japan’s terms.”