Netflix Tests Ultra HD
November 4, 2013

Netflix Announces Ultra HD Video Content Test

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Netflix is looking to push its video quality beyond high definition (HD) with a test of Ultra HD or 4K video. Full-scale availability of Ultra HD content is expected to launch next year, pending a test with a handful of videos, GigaOm reported.

The Ultra HD video catalog so far includes videos that Netflix circulates as in-house demos, including one titled El Fuente: 24 MP, which is "an example of 4K at 24 frames per second," according to GigaOm. The video footage includes people riding bicycles, scenes of a wholesale produce market, and kids playing in a fountain.

During a recent earnings call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that Netflix wants to be "one of the big suppliers of 4K next year." The test puts Netflix at the forefront for the new Ultra HD format.

"I think from Netflix's perspective or other over the top web video service provider perspectives, it's a way to continue to differentiate high quality service," Greg Ireland, research manager for multiscreen video at the research firm IDC told redOrbit. A forthcoming rollout of 4K video is yet another way for Netflix to distinguish itself from paid TV services, Ireland continued.

While Netflix confirmed its plans to roll out Ultra HD video content next year, details remain undisclosed. It is likely that Neflix will start by providing its own original content in Ultra HD, such as the popular shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. It is also possible that Netflix will license shows from networks to provide in Ultra HD.

Ultra HD content is currently somewhat scarce, however, Netflix will not be the first online service to provide content in the format that offers four times the resolution of standard high definition television. Sony announced in September that it would launch a 4K Ultra HD video download service.

While lack of 4K content has been pointed out as one critical factor slowing down the format's adoption, the cost of 4K Ultra HD televisions - which typically cost around  $10,000 and up - are another problem that will likely change soon.

"To date there's been a lack of content, and then the very expensive hardware," said Ireland. "You put those two together and it's a recipe for slow consumer adoption. But I think we're seeing action on both sides."

Ireland expects that availability of content, due in large part to trailblazers such as Netflix, as well as consumer-focused marketing campaigns and a drop in prices will happen in the new year. Prices are expected to come down as low as $2,000 or $3,000.

"I would expect as well that CES in January, 4K will be a big story for TV manufacturers," said Ireland.

A third component to 4K adoption is bandwidth. With streaming services in particular, 4K is only possible if internet service providers can keep up with the demand of 14 Mbps per second or higher. Internet service providers are beginning to upgrade those speeds, as well as offer discount packages on higher capacity internet connections.

These three factors - content, price and bandwidth - are "coalescing at the right time," Ireland explained. "It's setting the stage of prerequisites for consumer adoption. Things will continue to move slowly, but I think we've passed the point of being overly skeptical."