Digital Delivery Dipping Into 4K31 Oct, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Since the format’s online bow on YouTube in 2010, 4K has evolved from video clips featuring user-generated content via GoPro, Vimeo, smartphones and related 4K-compatible video sources, to mainstream Hollywood movies and TV shows. Leading the way, of course, are subscription streaming video heavyweights Netflix and Amazon, which each bowed 4K content in 2014. While the digital pipes don’t often offer the type of 4K experience that disc can, these services are adding the format to their line-up.
Netflix plans to offer 600 hours of largely TV content (i.e. original series) in 4K by the end of the year, Chris Jaffe, VP of user interface intervention at Netflix, told attendees at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.
Netflix charges a 20% premium ($11.99) for 4K UHD access over its standard ($9.99) monthly subscription plan. Rival Amazon Prime Video doesn’t charge a premium for 4K content, while transactional platform Amazon Instant Video sells select 4K movies priced from $19.99.
In addition, Netflix is upping selection of titles available in high dynamic range (HDR), which offers deeper colors and richer contrasts.
“[HDR] is less about packing more pixels on the screen like the move from HD to Ultra HD 4K was,” Jaffe said, as reported by Forbes. “It’s about extending the total range of those pixels. What that means is that you’re watching a much more photo-realistic image that’s much more representative of the total range that your eye can see when you’re just looking round in real life.”
The second season of “Daredevil” and first season of “Marco Polo” represent Netflix’s initial foray in HDR. In April, Netflix announced it would have 100 hours of HDR content by August, with another 150 hours slated for the end of the year.
“It wasn’t so long ago that online video meant grainy quality and constant buffering, but today the Internet is the home of the best possible video you can get thanks to Ultra HD 4K and HDR,” Neil Hunt, chief product officer, wrote in a blog post.
Select Netflix content available in 4K and/or HDR includes:
■ “A Series of Unfortunate Events”
■ “Chef’s Table”
■ “Knights of Sidonia”
■ “Marvel’s Iron Fist” (Upcoming)
■ “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”
■ “Marvel’s Luke Cage”
■ “Marvel’s The Defenders” (upcoming)
■ “Breaking Bad”
■ “House of Cards: Season 4”
■ “The Blacklist”
■ “Chelsea Does”
■ “Fuller House”
■ “Grace and Frankie: Season 2”
■ “The Crown”
■ “The OA”
Movies (including pending releases):
■ The Smurfs 2
■ Jerry Maguire
■ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
■ The Do-Over
■ The Ridiculous Six
■ Pee-wee’s Big Holiday
■ War Machine
Amazon Prime Video, which does not charge a premium for 4K UHD content, has quietly upped its portfolio with a selection of original TV series, movies and third-party content accessed through Fire TV (2nd generation), Roku 4 or the Amazon Video app on compatible 4K UHD televisions.
Amazon Instant Video, the e-commerce giant’s transactional VOD platform, offers a selection of 4K UHD titles for purchase.
Prime Video TV series in 4K include:
■ “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”
■ “Mozart in the Jungle”
■ “Alpha House”
■ “Orphan Black”
■ “Mad Dogs”
■ “Just Add Magic”
■ “The Man in the High Castle”
■ “Red Oaks”
■ “Hand of God”
■ “Sneaky Pete”
Instant Video TV shows in 4K include:
■ “Better Call Saul”
■ “House of Cards”
■ “Breaking Bad”
Prime Video movies in 4K include:
■ Jerry Maguire
■ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
■ Tom Clancy’s The Division: Agent Origins
■ Funny Girl
Instant Video movies in 4K include:
■ Captain Philips
■ The Amazing Spider-Man
■ Lawrence of Arabia
■ The Perfect Guy
■ Men in Black (I, II, III)
■ Bad Boys (I, II)
■ The Professional: Extended Cut
■ The Monuments Men
Walmart-owned Vudu in August partnered with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment for the studio’s initial slate of 4K UHD titles available with Dolby Vision HDR. Titles available for purchase and rental include the The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Lucy, Oblivion and Lone Survivor. In addition, Lucy and Oblivion feature Dolby Atmos moving audio.
Watching the titles requires a 4K television with Dolby Vision (HDR). The Universal titles bring to 50 the number of studio (MGM and Warner Bros.) movies available in HDR.
“We’re committed to providing customers with the best possible home entertainment experience, and partnering with Dolby on HDR delivers on that promise,” said Scott Blanksteen, VP of product for Vudu.
Vudu currently offers 61 4K movies, including:
■ The Legend of Tarzan
■ Central Intelligence
■ Star Trek Beyond
■ Lights Out
■ The Nice Guys
Launched in April by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, ULTRA is powered by the Sony Pictures Store (www.sonypicturesstore.com) and available on Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs with Android TV. ULTRA offers Sony movies for purchase at $30, many with HDR and digital extras. The service is also compatible with UltraViolet, and users can link their ULTRA profiles to their existing UV libraries and stream content they already bought or redeemed through compatible retailers.
Recent 4K releases include:
■ Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
■ The Night Before
■ The Walk
■ Library titles such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
SPHE recently announced ULTRA would bow on PCs in the first quarter of 2017 using Intel’s seventh-generation Core processors.
ULTRA offers 48-hour rentals and free 10-minute previews. Movies available for purchase, rental and streaming include new releases as well as classic films. New releases are priced at $29.99 to own in 4K with HDR, and $7.99 for rental. Library titles are priced at $25.99 to own.
“By enhancing our ULTRA streaming service with the addition of rental … free preview options and teaming with Intel provides users with greater access to their [movie] collections,” said Richard Berger, SVP of worldwide digital strategy and advanced platforms for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
UltraFlix.com is operated by San Jose, Calif.-based NanoTech Entertainment, which reports it provides 4K backend support to Netflix, M-Go, Hulu Plus, and YouTube. The company manufactures the Nuvola NP-1, a $530 streaming media player that supports 4K Ultra HD movies.
Launched last December, UltraFlix is available on Apple TV, Fire TV, Google Play, Windows 10, Roku 2, Roku 3 HD and Roku 4 streaming devices. The app is available on 4K Smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, Vizio, HiSense and others.
UltraFlix 4K rentals (48-hour window), which range in price from $1.99 to $9.99, feature more than 600 hours of content, including movies from Paramount Pictures, MGM, Millennium, Magnolia and Warner Bros.; 50 documentaries (priced from 99 cents) made for Imax theaters; TV series from A&E Networks; music concerts; and time-lapse motion art from independent producers.
■ The Terminator
■ Star Trek
■ Mission: Impossible
■ The Godfather
■ G.I. Joe
■ World War Z
■ Rain Man
■ The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Launched in March through the acquisition of M-Go by online movie ticket service Fandango, FandangoNow — the digital transaction movie (UltraViolet) platform co-founded by DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor — features 78 digital rental/sellthrough titles in 4K, priced from $5.99 to $14.99.
■ The Fourth Phase
■ 3 Days to Kill
■ The Escort
■ Ip Man
■ Sojourns 4K
■ Mirror, Mirror
■ Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
■ After the Dark
■ Into the Caves of Wonders
Google’s digital sellthrough platform in November will launch Chromecast Ultra, a $69 4K UHD streaming device that plugs into a compatible TV’s HDMI input.