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Netflix offers mixed message on ultra-HD

Friday, May 9th 2014 by Cable.co.uk
Netflix offering a mixed message on the future of 4K
Netflix reckons 4K won't go mainstream until 2019, but is still investing in new ultra-HD content.

Consumers can be a little wary when it comes to adopting new TV viewing technology. High-definition (HD) TV is now pretty much the industry standard, but took several years to reach the mass market; 3D was widely touted as the next big thing, but has generally failed to live up to expectations, and is being effectively abandoned by some broadcasters.

The tech that's currently getting the industry all worked up is ultra-HD (or 4K) television, which offers four times the resolution of 1080p HD. Recent figures from NPD DisplaySearch showed that 1.6 million ultra-HD TVs were shipped worldwide during 2013, with almost a million of these coming in the final quarter of the year alone. 

Given the apparent potential of the technology, it's hardly surprising that broadcasters, content providers and TV manufacturers have been eager to outline their plans to take advantage of it. 

What is surprising, though, is the somewhat mixed message coming from Netflix regarding the future of 4K.

On one hand, the streaming service looks to be embracing the technology: it already offers one of its most popular shows – the cult US political drama House of Cards – in 4K, and only this week revealed that Breaking Bad, widely regarded as one of the best TV series of all time, will be available in ultra-HD from June.

Greg Peters, Chief Streaming and Partnerships Officer at Netflix, promised the company will be licensing "more and more content" for ultra-HD – specifically, shows that would benefit from the enhanced video quality.

On the other hand, Netflix also claimed this week that it doesn't expect ultra-HD to cross over to the mainstream for up to five years, when most of the TVs on store shelves will be 4K-compatible.

So if Netflix doesn't believe 4K will be a real commercial success until 2019, why is it bothering to invest in rolling out such high-profile content in ultra-HD now?

Perhaps the real reason for the launch of additional 4K programming is to distract from the provider's newly announced price hike, which will see new customers in the UK pay an extra £1 per month for the service (although existing subscribers are exempt from the rise for two years).

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