The lack of 4K content has been a key concern that’s checked the rise of Ultra HD TV. Is that about to change ?
4K on demand
Netflix launched its Ultra HD streaming service last April. It has been followed by Amazon Prime Instant Video. Provided you’ve got the necessary kit, what do you get for your money? Netflix, our favourite video subscription service, is, surprisingly, yet to offer any films in 4K.
Its 4K service consists of 80 hours of TV and video content, including five series of Breaking Bad. Amazon has around 90 hours of 4K content and features 26 films. YouTube offers some 4K content in the UK, too, but otherwise that’s your lot in the streaming world. Ultraflix, currently available in the US, is one to look out for, tipped as it is to bring its 600 hours of Ultra HD content to Samsung and Sony TVs very soon.
Live TV and kicking…
The bottom line is that you can’t yet watch live 4K broadcasts on your TV. The BBC and Sky have carried out successful tests, so they do know what’s required to bring 4K to your home. What’s more, a recent BBC survey not only made clear the company was investigating 4K broadcasts but also suggested that a number of households could benefit from 4K based on average screen sizes and viewing distances. Meanwhile, strong rumours suggest BT and Sky will introduce 4K boxes sooner rather than later this year. So plans are definitely afoot.
Getting in a spin
And we will now get 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, with the frst titles due to hit the shelves this year. It’s expected that these discs will support High Dynamic Range technologies and sport a wider colour gamut as well. The final specs are due to be confrmed by mid-2015, and we could well see 4K Blu-ray discs on sale in time for Christmas. All told: the scarcity of 4K content is fnally being (slowly) addressed. And by the end of 2015, the option to watch 4K streams, broadcasts and discs could all be a reality…
Are people prepared to adopt a new 4K disc format?”
There are still plenty of people yet to be convinced by the concept of Ultra HD 4K TV. Even for the most
committed AV enthusiast, the prospect of splashing out on a new TV might feel somewhat premature given the lack of content. It’s hard to argue. And yes, to an extent we’re still being kept waiting, amid reports of trials, breakthroughs and more – but there can be no disputing progress is slowly but surely being made. 2015 is set to be the year it all comes to a head, but which way is the market most likely to go?
Getting a 4K TV is the easy bit. It’s evident that prices are starting to tumble, and that’s no surprise judging by just how many 4K sets we expect to hit the shelves in the UK this year. It’s ever more likely that your next TV will be 4K. It’s clear the content is now coming, too. Netflix and Amazon’s 4K services will surely grow only larger over the coming months – and we can’t rule out new services. Streaming seems likely to be the easiest route to 4K adoption in the home. 4K broadcasts might be the next most likely option, and also provides relatively few barriers for adoption.
Sky and BT will need a new box no doubt, while the Beeb shouldn’t be lagging too far behind given its recent trials. So what about 4K Blu-rays? They’re due by the end of the year, but the hurdle is hardware. A sole Panasonic prototype is all we’ve seen. And how many people are prepared to spend money on a new disc format? The BDA says the discs will offer higher bitrates than online 4K streams, so the hook looks likely to be better quality. And that’s something we’re always happy to get behind. Interesting times…