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Netflix's 4K Tests: Are We Any Closer to Ultra HD TV Adoption?

11.1.13 @ 10:28PM Tags : , , , , , , ,

Netflix 4KThe timetable for TVs adopting 4K has been up for debate since the 4K’s adoption rates began to rise themselves. Some look at the lagging success of 3D TVs as an indicator that not all consumers treat new technologies equally. However, with more and more TVs offering 4K, it might signify that in-home 4K viewing will become the norm. In fact, the fast-becoming in-home media viewing standard, Netflix, has started testing several 4K videos and even has plans to start offering 4K content as early as next year.

If you were hoping that the videos offered by Netflix would be some VFX-heavy action films or awe-inspiring nature documentary, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but no — there’s nothing that cool — yet. According to an article from Gigaom, there are currently seven 4K videos running 7 to 8 minutes long, containing footage that Netflix regularly uses for internal tests. One video, of which, demonstrates 4K at 24fps.

According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the popular VOD platform plans on being “one of the big suppliers of 4K next year,” meaning that if everything goes according to plan, you may be able to watch your favorite effects-driven films in ultra HD rather soon. However, Netflix does plan on offering their own original content in 4K first, then later working with their licensing partners to offer other films and TV shows in ultra HD.

This all seems like a timely plan of action after Sony launched 8 million flower petals out of a Costa Rican volcano to promote their 4K TVs. According to The Verge, the “8 million petals represent each individual pixel contained in Sony’s 4K sets — four times the detail of 1080p.” And though it’s still up in the air whether or not consumers are going to adopt ultra HD TVs, especially at their current prices, these trends definitely seem to indicate that the main media gatekeeper, Netflix, is giving it the old college try. Check out Sony’s advertisement, as well as a behind-the-scenes video below:

What do you think the timetable looks like for 4K TV adoption? Do you think these Netflix tests indicate that we’re close? Let us know in the comments.



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  • Jesus, the compression on those videos. I couldn’t see anything.

    • 4K discussions are like spam, everywhere and pretty useless.

      • I agree… With the incredibly shitty wi-fi in my apartment 1080 is hard enough to stream, so for the time being I do not care.

  • I saw a 4K Panasonic tv showing 4K content, for the second time, today. The Sony 4K does not look as good as it. But the Samsung 4K on display there looks great. Samsung and Panasonic appear to have the best looking picture. Both salesmen showing me the tvs said the same thing—they didn’t expect I would buy today because there isn’t enough content yet. Sales of 4K Samsung tvs are going fairly well. The Sony is moving slow. And the Panasonic just came out so they don’t have a idea yet how well it is selling.

    The primary reason I want a 4K tv is to use it as a monitor for my computer. There still are no low priced 4K resolution video cards for computers. There’s two expensive gaming cards that have 4K resolution. But I don’t want to pay $700.00 for one of them. I’m not necessarily waiting for the price of 4K tvs to come down as I can get a 39″ 4K Seiki for $699.00—but the price coming down will be nice. I am waiting only for a low priced 4K resolution video card to come out, and for more 4K content to be available. Then I will buy. I am look forward to that! :-)

    ESPN is, right now, in the process of building a large studio fitted with 4K cameras. It is projected to be done at the end of 2014, with broadcast to start in early 2015. They may broadcast in 4K over the internet first. I really will like to watch football in 4K.

    I don’t have any doubt the 4K will catch on. I cannot see it being like 3D. I think it’s not just me waiting for there to be more 4K content. I think lots of people like the beauty of 4K—especially if 4K tvs come down to 1080p tv prices. 4K tvs already cost less than high end 1080p tvs. The next season of 4K tvs, next Spring, will cost less than the ones out now. Netflix 4K may drive sales of 4K tvs. ESPN will kick in not long after. And YouTube 4K will return any day. YouTube is only waiting for a little more content to be uploaded to go back to 4K. It’s true there are quite a few 4K videos on YouTube right now. But you can’t view them in 4K yet.

    The question I have is what video card manufacturers are in the process of making a simple, low cost 4K resolution video card?

  • BYW, the Panasonic 4K 20 inch tablet is priced at $6000.00:

  • Showing 4K in 1080p? Anyway 4K… I doubt it takes off as fast as the hype.

  • Its good to see my email campaign to Netflix is working!
    Can’t wait for 4K streaming. My money is waiting.

  • Whoa, that’s like a nightmare situation for an 8-bit ultra-compressed codec. Short of an actual testing environment, these are probably some of the most codec-stressing shots you could possibly pull off, and it shows. There’s some sort of incredible irony in trying to depict the benefits of 4k resolution by not only displaying a 4k video in 1080p, but then having its resolution be further obliterated by macroblocking to the point where it looks like upscaled 360p.

    Anyway, Netflix entering the 4k video market will definitely push the content a lot more visibly to consumers than most other options at this point. If they’re able to offer the video at sufficient quality and speed, they could end up taking a commanding lead amongst any upcoming market competition. I’m still waiting to hear more about Sony’s plans via its PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s plans via its Xbox One, Red’s plans via its Redray system, and any other competing media players that may support the higher resolution in the future..

    • The funny thing is no 4K media player is needed since 4K movies can fit on a thumb drive, and the thumb drive can be plugged directly into the USB of the tv and played. Block Buster shelves could be lined with boxes that have thumb drives in them instead of dvds. But manufacturers likely won’t go that route though since far more money can be made with 4K dvd players and 4K dvds.

      • In that same vein, as cheap as thumb drives are, they’re still massively more expensive to manufacture than disc media like Blu-ray. Also, there’d be the added issue of copy protection that I’m sure major studios wouldn’t enjoy. Digital downloads are easily the most cost-effective means of distribution.
        With downloads also being easier to distribute online, I expect most major movie studios will eventually support their own web portals or digital marketplace applications specifically for distribution of their films, if they haven’t already. Then, via those marketplaces, they’ll just have consumers download directly to a set-top box, TV, or PC to view the content.
        Still, the problem with television sets as platforms has always been massive software fragmentation. One manufacturer will have their own proprietary TV operating system completely different from that of another manufacturer, meaning that each different line of televisions would have to have its own version of a studio’s marketplace application. Set-top boxes are more popular as a result of this fragmentation, as they reduce the number of platforms onto which a company needs to port its software. Maybe we’ll get lucky in the future and Android (or a similar platform) will become popular and feasible as a TV OS, paving the way for easy access to digital content within the one device.

        • There is a company in China called Hisense using Android in it 4K tv. Their tvs cost far less than Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, etc.

          You can see Android in Hisense talked about in this video: “Microsoft’s New CES Replacement: Learn All About Hisense!”

  • Without good compression and / or monster bandwidth – not really.

    • It won’t be done through the current codec compression of H.264, it will be done through H.265 (HEVC)

      • Yes, H.265!

        8K tv in Japan will be using H.265, dividing the image into 17 horizontal strips, sending it via H.265, and reconstructing the 17 strips at the end user. They are not only going to be doing it, BUT!, they will be doing it at 120Hz IN REAL TIME!! Meanwhile, here in this blog there’s people being luddites about 4K!

        Video about NHK 8K tv/H.265/120Hz in real time:

        • Netflix wants their own compression codec, so they won’t have to pay the licensing fees. HEVC and the related hardware is actually already available. The Japanese just streamed a marathon in 4K using the new switches, etc.
          An interesting side story is an open source DAALA, whose programmers assert a great deal of superiority over HEVC and expect the commercially available products to be ready by 2015.
          PS. 4K Blue Ray (or whatever color it’ll turn out to be) players might be ready by 2015 too. I read that the film companies may be asking for discs that can hold several films at once, something around the 300 GB per side.

          • Some videos explain DAALA:

            bottom of page


          • How do you have the time to find all these DLD?

          • It’s not difficult. Most would probably use an automatic news feed based on a few selected key words. I just do a web search once a month or so, just to see what pops up. The one I did a few days ago was on “4K TV” and “4K streaming” . You go 3-4 pages deep or specify the time frame (“last month” or “last week”).
            As a side note – be ready for Yahoo to throw its hat in the ring. Ms. Mayer fanned out on the Hulu purchase but she’s dreaming big.

        • marklondon on 11.3.13 @ 4:35AM

          You are very right about 8K. BBC just did another field test at a football ground. It’s coming!

  • Just a heads up. 4K 39″ Seiki on sale at $569 with free shipping at Good till Nov. 6th with couponcode UHD4K.

    • It’s good to know it does come down to near $550.00. Maybe it will be lower in the future.

    • If you want a 4k TV buy at least a 65″ and make sure you watch TV with your nose 5 inches from the screen, so you can enjoy the difference.

      • While Best Buy doesn’t have 1080p and 4K tvs on display next to each other Fry’s electronics does. If you can get to a Fry’s you’ll immediately see the difference. The 4K is beautiful. It makes 1080p look flat and even a bit blurry.

  • Here we go again. We are many years away from widespread adoption. 4K tv just appeared and content is non-existent. I’m also not convinced that 4K will have the same appeal as HD, particularly since you need a 50 inch screen to make a difference. Maybe if manufacturers can produce 4k screens as cheaply as HD, but that point is also many years away. Many (most?) people hardly recognize/appreciate the difference between HD and SD anyway.

    I think the example of still photography is interesting. Canon and Nikon DSLR sales are getting slaughtered by smartphones. Why? Because people care more about convenience and connectivity than image quality. Way more.

    • You are right, im a visual artist and i love a sharp image but i keep watching TV shows in SD. Even if you analyze torrents, the ones with most seeds are always the SDs, it downloads faster and files arent huge. I love new technology, but i hate gimmicks and companies shoving stuff you dont need now down your throat.

      • Well not everybody is the same…I personally have very good vision, and find it difficult to watch SD content anymore because it’s so blurry it’s distracting.

    • Those people might need glasses.

    • You have a half finished thought there with the cell phones…cell phones have been able to take pictures for many years, the thing that has changed is that now they take very good quality pictures.

  • From what I’ve read, 3D in the home is very much a niche production, with EPSN and the BBC cancelling their 3D channels. I feel 4k will be a similiar story or probably even worse.

    After all, lowly 1080p Blu-Ray never managed to replace DVD. Each new innovation seems to result in diminishing returns for the manufacturers and entertainment business.

    • As soon as the Netflix begins to stream in 4K, it will instantly become “mass adaption”. And, nipping at their heels will be Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Yahoo, Hulu, Amazon (making a very strong push for the Prime package), Google, et al. A huge variable here is the cable/broadband streaming speed. The technology is here to go 4K right now but the demand hasn’t been there because 8-12 Mbps has been perfectly sufficient for the 1080p streaming. It is changing though. TW just increased their top speed to 100 Mpbs and lowered the prices on the lower tier options. Others, I assume, will try to catch up. Hastings says one might need 50 Mbps just to be safe. I read they might go as low as 12 to begin with, Red, I believe, is asking for 20.

      • “As soon as the Netflix begins to stream in 4K, it will instantly become “mass adaption”. ”

        Doubt that most people will run out and buy a brand new television.. DVD still outsells Blu-Ray overall, even though I guess most people have HD televisions by now.

        My parents can’t even be bothered with a HDMI cable (total cost £1.25 from Amazon) even after I showed them the improved picture quality.

        • But they won’t have to. Even a downsampled 4K looks better than a straight 1080p.
          That said, mass adaption doesn’t mean a 100% adaption. But the technology to transmit the archived material in 4K is already here. The next step is live events, which are at the test stage but should pick up steam for the upcoming World Cup.

          • Mass adoption usually means 75% of all TV / Movie viewing households.

            If you hit 40% I think that’s pretty significant though :)

          • Hi, Joe. “Mass adaption” can be a loose definition in the modern era. What was considered to have mass appeal in the past is geared toward the niche markets now. In terms of 4K, the companies obviously prefer to have their shows “future protected” for the syndication revenues years down the road. Netflix is using eyeIO codec. They claim to be able to stream 4K at less than 10 Mbps. That should make 4K accessible to an overwhelming percentage of those with a broadband connection. Does broadband have mass appeal? Internet?

          • As little as 10mb? If that is true it means a lot to every media outlet, especially with 4K cameras coming down so quickly in price.

          • The speeds seem to make sense – if the current 1080p is streamed at 3 Mbps (on YouTube, Netflix speeds can vary) with the current generation of Flash, then the 4K can be streamed at 12. If the next generation compression is (allegedly) 50% more efficient, you’re back down to 6.
            Of course, the future generation video is not just about higher resolution. It’s about a greater color gamut (10-12 bits), an expanded dynamic range (they aim for 10+) and a higher frame rate (NTSC might have to settle for 120). And that will raise the speed requirements again. (however, even the current DOCSIS 3.0 can handle it, to say nothing of 3.1 that can deliver 1 Gb to home)

          • Yes I know the tech exists, why don’t people run out an buy it today?!?!?
            Have you seen a single study that shows a faster adoption rate?
            Even the people who are super pro UltraHD say that their most optimistic expectation is to reach 5% market adoption in North America by 2016. Five percent in the next three years…

          • Is 75% or 40% of the market at 2k?

        • Yes we just hit 75% market saturation for HD last year.

          And 2K is the standard for Digital Cinema Projection, so all of the theaters that are not 4K are 2K.

          • Its the theater market you are talking about? TV? what are you using as a definition of “market’?

          • And if you are using tv as part of the HD market you are referring to 720p?

          • “so all of the theaters that are not 4K are 2K.”

            At what pace are they all going to 4k?

          • No the stats about HD are about home markets.

            Yes some are 720p.

            Gene please see our “Know Your Market” post…


            Here are some stats:

            Movie Theaters Screens:

            Film = 15%. According to the MPAA, 2012 was the first year that digital screens surpassed analog screens in international market share. In 2012 there were 6,426 film screens in the US / Canada, making up 15% of the 42,803 screens in North America.

            2K = 62%. This is the way most of us see movies in theaters today, and the way we will see them for a long time to come. Movie theaters started buying 2K digital projectors in 2000, but didn’t rise to a meaningful number until last year. At the end of 2010, the market acceptance for digital cinema projectors (2K) was still at 28%, but between the end of 2010 and 2012 it jumped up to 91% (2K and 4K projectors)! But even though higher resolution (4K) projectors have been on the market since 2007, the adoption rate has been slow, and is continuing to slow down. Theaters are used to projectors they install lasting at least 20 years, and most of the new 2K projectors were installed between 2010 and 2012. Most theaters can’t afford to upgrade to 4K even if they wanted to.

            4K = 22%. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it may take some time to get to even 25% market acceptance for theaters because according to them, “the sad truth for technology vendors is that money spent on luxury leather seats and waiter service of drinks to your seat is a lot higher ROI for exhibitors than buying a 4K projector.” and, “4K is a bad match for cinema and growing that market will be a challenge.” IMDB reports that so far only 35 films have ever been finished and released in 4K, all in the last 3 years. Which means most films shown on existing 4K projectors have been finished in 2K. Most of those 4K films you love to talk about? Chances are didn’t even see them in 4K.

            IMAX / Specialty = Less than 1%. Wikipedia’s list shows that there are 394 IMAX screens in North America, and while the technical resolution of those screens is 12,000 × 8,700 (27 megapixels), many of the projectors have a 2K input maximum.

            Home Viewing:

            SD 480i = 25%: A full 25% of people in North America still have ONLY SD TVs in their homes, and there are still a lot of channels that broadcast in SD. According to Wikipedia – “It is not clear whether broadcasting HDTV or multiple standard definition (SD) channels during non-primetime hours will become common. Many Public Broadcasting Service member stations are now carrying SD multicasts when not broadcasting in HDTV.” According to Nielsen 25% of Netflix users in 2011 connected through their Nintendo Wii, which is an SD device. Many people are comfortable watching SD content, even if they have HDTVs.

            HD 720p / 1080p = 75%: According to Nielsen, HDTV ownership saw a huge 14% jump in 2012 finally bringing it up to 75% market acceptance, which is the standard for many big companies to feel producing a product is worth their time. But while the ownership saw a huge jump, HD viewership is still low. According to Nielsen, 61% of all prime viewing was done on an HD set, but only 29% of that viewing was in HD, the rest was in 480i.

            UHD / 4K = .1% (yes that is 1 tenth of a percent!): According to IHS Worldwide Television Market Tracker there were 4,000 4K TVs sold in North America in 2012. This will rise to 2.1 million units sold by 2017. At that point 4K TVs will still only account for 0.8 percent of the global TV market which at that time will be around 300 million units per year. And the 4K units that do sell will almost all be above 60″ and priced between $20,000 and $25,000, because very few people can see the difference between 4K and 1080 on screens 55″ or smaller (from normal viewing distances). And here is the kicker: the number of 60″ screens sold world wide today is around 1.5% of all TVs sold. Another words the only significant market share for 4K screens in the next 10 years will be very large sets to very well off people. I know 10 people will post comments that say “well this 4K TV is coming out for $799 or look a 4K tablet”, but according to IHS those won’t sell in significant numbers (millions of units) in the next 10 years. Every study you can find says 4K purchasing will be basically a flat line for at least a decade. And those studies traditionally are very optimistic! In all likelihood it will take even longer.

  • This comment didn’t seem to fit into the window above:

    There is a company in China called Hisense using Android in it 4K tv. Their tvs cost far less than Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, etc.

    You can see Android in Hisense talked about in this video: “Microsoft’s New CES Replacement: Learn All About Hisense!”

  • Hisense has been in America for years. They make Dynex and Insignia:

  • Jeez this guy Gene is either working for Red or for some TV company, I’m sure .

  • 4K adoption is still many years off.

    Some of the reports coming in are slightly more optimistic than last years reports.

    This one:

    Says… ” By 2020, more than 200 channels will be broadcasting ultra high-definition content to more than 140 million homes, with the number of channels set to rise to more than 1,000 by 2025.”

    So another words, by 2020 we are still at lower than 50% adoption rate and we will really be looking at adoption by 2025 at the earliest.

    And they do say this is very fast! “If IHS’ view is correct, this means that UHD will be adopted at a much faster rate than standard High-Definition TV was, with the latter only becoming mainstream around 2005-06, a full sixteen years after it was first confirmed as a technology standard in 1990.”

    So yes 4K is probably coming but you’re looking at 2025 before you NEED it as an independent filmmaker.

    • Joe,

      I’m just wondering what do you think of 4K video when you see it? I am not trying to be sarcastic, or critical or anything, in asking. I’m just wondering what you personally think of it. I’m not going to come back at you with some antagonistic reply to whatever you reply.

      • Truthfully the only presentation of 4K that I was impressed with was one I saw way off the main floor at NAB and the reason it impressed me is because they were showing still photographs. Basically very fancy digital photo frames. For most moving images it does nothing for me. Color depth and dynamic range look so much better to me than more pixels.

        But that isn’t the basis of why I jump into these conversations.

        The reason I jump into these is that I believe there are a lot of people basically being bullied into buying 4K, but the market is just not ready for it, and likely won’t be for at least 10 years. I just want people to know the facts when it comes to new tech adoption. Gene if you’re super into 4K by all means be an early adopter, I will not say you are wasting your money or really anything negative about 4K. I just want people to understand that just because TV companies, Sony, and RED are pushing this super hard doesn’t mean this is happening anytime soon.

        • I don’t see 4K being pushed. I see it being something better so people are naturally, of their own choice, going to it. I don’t see them being pushed. I see them wanting it.

        • I think the one thing that Red clearly has pushed is prices of cameras—pushed them down. :-)

    • “Some of the reports coming in are slightly more optimistic than last years reports.”

      I am not surprised to see that. 4K looks so good to me—that’s the reason I’m so high on it. The word ‘exciting’ is used to quickly most of the time. But 4K is something I am truly excited about. I think I am not the only one that is.

      • It looks better, but not much better it doesn’t enhance the experience dramatically as HD did with SD. The 4K broadcast is just one part pf the equation. Post production with VFX in 4K is not happening in the next 4 years to come, I’m positive. It’s expensive as hell for studios already suffering with low margins in VFX. I’d be happy to have decent HD broadcast at least before longing for 4K delivery. Gene stop spamming this thread.

        • I really do not appreciate you accusation of spamming.

          You are imagining strange things about people that like 4K. PLEASE STOP AND THINK ABOUT YOUR ASSERTIONS.

          If you do not think 4K is amazing thats fine for you. You can be a luddite. Luddites have always existed. They always will.

        • ESPN, Netflix, and YouTube are all going to 4K. Please contact them and let them know how you feel about the error of their way.

          Peter Jackson is going to Red Dragon 6K. Please go to him and talk your sense into him. Certainly after you have convinced him he will end up in a cold sweat after seeing how crazy his ideas are and he will thank you for your help—right? The makers of the under production Transformers need your counsel too–they switched to Red Dragon 6K upon first site of what it does–you must feel they need you, to get them of this path they have so unwillingly been guiding onto by the Red camera company. NHK and the BBC really are in need of you to get them back on beam—they are going 8K. They need you to get them back down to where things are safe—at 1080p—or better yet—720p. Yes, we all need you Marcus. Thank you for being a messiah to the video world. Knock that evil glass of 4K/6k Kool-Aid out of our hands!

        • Marcus,

          Do you have a BluRay player? Do you watch video in 1080p?

        • If some studios are suffering from dealing with 4K then there’s a simple solution—they should stop handling 4K. FTFY.

  • With the CES’14 coming up in two months, more pieces trickle out. First about the 4K streaming.
    Also, let’s not forget the 4K gaming. Gene brought up video cards of various manufacturers but the 4K games are probably easier to manufacture and the hardest to play.

  • H265 real world compression TODAY, Netflix streaming sooner than you might think.

    Cinemartin say in their tests a ProRes 4:4:4 video of 590MB was converted to H.265 HEVC with CINEC 2.7 to an output video of 4.9MB with little or no noticeable differences in image quality.

    And for those that say there isn’t any 4K content, a 35mm film emulsion holds the pixilated content of roughly 4.5 to 5K. A 35mm Film transfer to 4K costs (One Time) $7.00 per frame. At 24 FPS a 90 minute movie would cost a little less than 1 million to transfer into crisp 4K (with color correction and lab fees) or roughly the weekly cost of a successful prime time sitcom. And that isn’t calculating a near certain economies of scale discount. We’re sitting on an enormous plethora of 4K content.

    If you think Netflix, who take in 4 Billion a year with a gross profit of 1 Billion, aren’t going to spend their way to maintaining market share then my friends 4K isn’t for you. I was not an early adopter of 1080, however the math and map on 4K is decidedly different.

    It’s either easy or impossible.

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