4K is pretty much "the next big thing," like it or not. Of course, for 4K to really mesmerize you in your living room, there will need to be both UHD TVs and 4K content available -- eventually. As far as the content side of things goes, Netflix is taking 4K delivery very seriously. And while widespread availability of true ultra-high def media is going to take some time, you may not have to wait nearly as long for select Netflix presentations in 4K. In fact, if you own one of a select few types of smart TVs, you may be watching the second season of House of Cards in 4K this coming Spring.
Netflix made its flagship venture into original content with the David Fincher-helmed pilot of House of Cards. Since then, it has released the popular Orange is the New Black, the revival of the cult hit Arrested Development, and a slew of others. Given that it "attribute[s] some of its impressive growth to [the] successful and critically acclaimed original show," it's no wonder why Netflix has chosen House of Cards to mark another quantum leap forward. The first question, of course, is "how?"
According to Stuff:
The streaming service will be offering 4K programming through smart TV apps available on the next generation of 4K TVs, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt tells Stuff. "We're not naming specific manufacturers, but we have several of the major TV vendors who are going to be producing 4K capable TVs – they'll be announcing them at CES," he says.
Part of the decision to pipe the media into UHD smart TVs directly has to do with the apparent shortcomings of devices like the Xbox One and 'PS4K' (R.I.P. -- kinda). According to Netflix's Hunt, those consoles simply aren't there yet in terms of 4K, though they may be eventually. In the meantime, albeit on comparatively few smart TVs (no word yet on which ones exactly), Netflix is moving ahead. The second question, given bandwidth restrictions and internet connection speeds, is once again, "How?"
The answer is HEVC, a.k.a. H.265, the "next generation" video compression format. To put it simply, HEVC is able to provide comparable quality to an H.264 encoding with half the bitrate. In a follow-up on Stuff, Hunt says that "the benefits [of HEVC] trickle down," so in addition to reasonable 4K, 1080 HD can be delivered more efficiently while those with lower-speed broadband can access higher quality media than they could before. He says Netflix is expecting 4K media to run somewhere in the 10-16 Mbps range, probably right around 15 Mbps.
HEVC will most certainly help, but as The Verge points out, Netflix's own ISP speed index ranks Google Fiber in the US with the highest speed rating at 3.59 Mbps, amongst an overall US average of 1.90 Mbps. It's important to note that these figures quantify "prime time performance rankings" in accessing Netflix specifically. If these numbers are accurate, though, it will certainly be interesting to see whether the second House of Cards season makes it 4K debut without a hitch. Netflix's success could be substantial in the push for the 4K living room.
Apparently Netflix is planning on delivering other titles in 4K this Spring as well, but none have been named as of yet.
- Netflix to stream House of Cards season 2 in 4K -- Stuff
- How Netflix is going to bring 4K streaming to your TV -- Stuff
[via The Verge]