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Trickle or stream? Netlix says 4K streaming begins January

Image used with permission by copyright holder

After months of hints, speculation, and valid questions throughout the industry about viability, Netflix is going for it and launching 4K streaming … next month. A report by The Verge reveals that Netflix has already put a plan in place to pipe the sparkling clear Ultra HD resolution into living rooms sometime in January.

However, for those early adopters of the technology, it’s not all roses and rainbows in 4K land just yet, and for a host of reasons. The biggest caveat to the news is a revelation from the company’s Chief Product Officer, Neil Hunt, to Stuff magazine that only select manufacturers will be getting the 4K streams, with a planned announcement of exactly which TVs will be compatible at this year’s CES. The unnamed TVs with the magic touch will be running the 4K streams through onboard Netflix apps, with a possible introduction of 4K streaming to both PS4 and Xbox One consoles being hinted at “eventually.”

Another issue at hand includes a standard problem throughout the entertainment industry with introducing 4K at this stage in the game: the lack of available 4K content. Netflix has one ace in the hole in that department in the form of its hit series “House of Cards,” which is shot in 4K, and Hunt revealed the 2nd season as the flagship series for the company’s introductory 4K run. Hunt explained that Netflix will be starting small in an attempt to jump start the technology, saying that the company’s initial slate of 4K content will consist of  “… a set of sample offerings, not a big part of the catalog.”

Apart from those concerns, other barriers 4K enthusiasts will face include both a short supply of available internet connections speedy enough to run the massive streams, as well as questions about 4K compression. While Hunt recently promised that 4K streaming will only require speeds of around 15 Mbps, that’s still well above what the average American routinely receives. And besides the need for speed, many are skeptical about what 4K content will actually look like at the other side of the pipe at the high compression rates it will take to make 4K streaming a reality.

Regardless of the obstacles at hand, Netflix has rarely shied away from a challenge, and Hunt’s confidence in the new technology is palpable. We’ll find out more about which TVs will get the new blast of high density resolution, and when, in a few short weeks at CES 2014. Until then, we’d like to hear your thoughts on this ostensible shot from the hip from the biggest streaming outfit around.

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Ryan Waniata
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
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