Monday, March 18, 2013

Netflix to Stream 4K Content In a 'Year or Two'

Prepare to Have Your Bandwidth Caps Annihilated
by Karl Bode Thursday 14-Mar-2013 broadbandreports
Netflix this week stated that the company's goal is to stream content in the 4K format by 2014 or so. Netflix recently started offering Super HD and 3D streamsif your ISP has signed up for the company's new content delivery network. Super HD streams need 5-7 Mbps of bandwidth, while 3D streams need 6-12 Mbps of bandwidth. 4K will eat substantially more bandwidth than both -- but just how much bandwidth is still being worked out. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings tells The Verge that they hope to have 4K streams up and running in a year or two:
Click for full size
Clearly we have much work to do with the compression and decode capability, but we expect to be delivering 4K within a year or two with at least some movies and then over time become an important source of 4K. 4K will likely be streamed first before it goes anywhere else. To that point, our own original House of Cards was shot in 4K. It's being mastered in full HD, but the raw footage, or a good chunk of it, was shot in 4K, and we hope to have some House of Cards 4K encodes later this year.
It remains unclear just how much bandwidth 4K streams will eat. Sony recently stated that they'll be offering 4K downloads via the Playstation 4 that will clock in at around 100 GB each. The H.265 compression standard will certainly help some, but these 4K streams will still likely clock in at between 25 and 35 Mbps, and are going run face first into industry bandwidth caps.

Netflix already has a history of attacking industry caps as anti-competitive cash grabs, and the shift to 4K is going to make it much easier to single out broadband providers who've been skimping on broadband upgrades. Netflix recently has been naming and shaming the ISPs that struggle to effectively stream existing content, and 4K streams will almost certainly be restricted to ISPs who join the Netflix Open Connect Content Delivery Network.

Of course if you can afford the early price tag on 4K TVs, you can probably afford the extra bandwidth overages. Still, that doesn't mean bandwidth caps won't be increasingly problematic, constrictive and financially punitive as people design new content to take advantage of faster connections.

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