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Netflix takes step forward with 4k video content

Graeme Parton

Popular movie and TV streaming service Netflix has begun trialling ‘ultra HD’ video content .

The technology, if launched properly, will offer users pictures with four times as much detail as the standard 1080p HD content currently available – it is also known as ‘4K’.

The company has said that it hopes to offer the upgraded pictures to its users at some point in 2014. Experts have, however, expressed scepticism – with some claiming the UK’s broadband speeds would struggle to cope with such rich imagery and audio.

Richard Broughton, a broadband analyst from IHS, explained that the country’s average connection speed is around 7.6Mbps and that this would have to be doubled in order for consumers to be in a position to comfortably stream content of such quality. According to Broughton, only around 20 per cent of the UK’s households would be able to benefit using their current connections.

Although the availability of broadband in general has grown substantially in the last few years, Ofcom has said that just 4.8 million people are using “superfast” connections with speeds of 30Mbps or higher.

Speaking to the BBC, Craig Nelson from the Internet Service Providers’ Association said that speeds of around 100Mbps would be necessary for Netflix’s 4K service to work consistently. He also pointed out that while these connections were commonly found in production houses and businesses, they’re a little rarer in homes.

Currently, only a select few companies make televisions capable of displaying 4K-quality pictures. What’s more, these devices come with some sizeable price tags. Panasonic’s 65-inch offering, for example, is available for £5,500 and a similar model from Sony is priced at £5,000.

Netflix’s announcement is particularly interesting as it shows how content quality can sometimes improve at a faster rate than the hardware on which it will be published or broadcast. Quite often, the technology becomes available and then content is adapted to make the most of the new capabilities.

Graeme has experience creating content for online sources and for the radio, and at university he studied Multimedia Journalism.

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