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Want awesome 4K content for your new Ultra HD TV? Here are your cool new options

by on November 18, 2014
 

by Stephan Jukic – November 18, 2014

4K content is one of the areas that still remains least developed in the Ultra HD industry. While more and more people can make their own amateur videos thanks to a wide proliferation of 4K cameras even in the latest smart phones, professional movie and TV show content still remains almost oddly underdeveloped.

However, one of the bastions through which most consumer 4K movies and TV shows are already accessible in a more or less decent selection is via assorted streaming mediums. This is where many owners of 4K TVs can already access a decent and growing selection of shows, movies, sports events and other content, as long as they have the right kind of TV or the right kind of internet connectivity.

This is where streaming can be problematic. Certain streaming options, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, are available (or soon to be available) to virtually all of the newer model 4K TVs but can only be accessed by homes with internet connections in excess of 20 Mbps, and only about 11 to 15% of U.S households have this kind of connectivity.

Other services on the other hand, such as Sony’s proprietary set-top media player based streaming service for its own 4K TVs are accessible even without a powerful web connection but can only be accessed by users who actually own a Sony brand 4K set and the associated 4K UHD media player that the company sells for $700.

This entire landscape of content patchwork means in effect that, while getting your hands on a low cost 4K TV is finally fairly affordable, content is still a tricky thing to buy.

However, for those who are interested, here are some of the main ultra HD entertainment options currently available.

Netflix:

Netflix 4K streaming service is one of the oldest currently available and it has been ready for subscription since April of 2014. However, at about $13.99 per month, it does cost a little bit more than the company’s regular streaming subscription and it’s only available to UHD TVs with HEVC content decoding capability.

Luckily, almost all of the name brand UHD sets released in 2014 can read and decode HEVC compression. Unluckily however, Netflix 4K content is also only available to subscribers whose domestic web connections hand over 20 to 25 or more Mbps of speed, a still rare quality in many U.S-based internet connections.

Netflix is the oldest web based 4K streamming service running

Netflix is the oldest web based 4K streamming service running

Sony Corp:

As already mentioned above, Sony also streams 4K video to users of its own ultra HD TVs who also have those TVs connected to a $700 Sony 4K UHD media player. Movies cost about $8 for a 24 hour rental and 4K shows like “Breaking Bad” can be bought at about $4 to $11 per episode while movies can be outright bought for about $30 to $35.

Overall, the Sony content selection consists of roughly 200 movies and shows, which is much more than what Netflix or just about anyone else offers and it doesn’t depend on an ultra-fast internet connection but in terms of pricing, it isn’t at all cheap.

4K FMP 4K media player

Sony’s FMP 4K media players are needed to access the extensive UHD content library the company offers

Amazon Prime:

Amazon has spent some time promising the release of its own 4K streaming content service and it looks like that’s finally going to hit the Prime Instant Video service on TVs which can decode HEVC content compression. However, the release date of the Amazon service isn’t yet officially clear and it looks like it won’t be available until at least January.

One benefit of Amazon Prime 4K streams will be their low cost of just the same $99 per year that the company’s regular streaming video service costs. On the other hand, with Amazon Prime we see the same problem as that which Netflix has; Amazon Prime is only available to customers who have “ultra-high speed” internet connections of 25 Mbps or more.

Amazon Prime Instant Video 4K content streaming

Amazon’s Prime 4K content service is still not available but the company is promising that its just around the corner

DirecTV:

DirecTV is showing signs of promise toward becoming one of the biggest providers of 4K content available in the coming year. As of this last Friday, the company became the first multichannel video programming distributor to offer 4K UHD video-on-demand directly to its customers who also happen to own a Samsung 4K TV and have the DirecTV Genie HD digital video recorder installed on top of it.

The DirecTV VoD service launched with a pretty narrow selection of only 20 movies such as “Amistad”, “Forrest Gump” and the latest “Star Trek” installation for now but according to the company CEO, this will grow considerably as demand for 4K content increases. However, and this is the most promising aspect of DirecTV’s offer, the company is also in the process of launching its two latest transmission satellites into orbit. When these satellites are flying over the earth and fully operational later in early 2015, they will allow the company to offer not only 4K VoD but also live content directly to customers’ homes. No word is yet available on what this will be priced at.

DirecTV 4K live satellite broadcasting

DirecTV is looking very promising with its upcoming satellite based Live 4K broadcasts, slated for mid 2015

NanoTech:

Available to subscribers of the company’s UltraFlix Video on Demand service and only on a narrow range of TVs such as those from Sony, Vizio and Panasonic, the offerings by NanoTech’s UltraFlix are surprisingly decent, with about 200 hours of content available, at least according to the company itself. However, the catch is that users need to first get their hands on one of NanoTech’s Nuvola(TM) NP-1 streaming 4K Ultra HD media players.

UltraFlix 4K VoD

The fairly extensive UltraFlix service offers more value than other VoD options

Comcast:

Comcast is also going to be launching a similar VoD service to that of DirecTV by the end of 2014. The service will also be available only to Samsung TVs at first (What’s up with Sony and the others?) and the rumors so far indicate that the content selection will at least initially top what DirecTV is offering.

Google:

Finally, we come to Google’s entirely free, easily accessible 4K YouTube clips. They’re beautiful, they cost nothing to view and the only catch is that you need a powerful internet connection (or patience if you have slow web connectivity), a 4K TV or PC screen to get your hands on them.

Thus, so far at least, these are your main options when it comes to finally entertaining yourself on that shiny new ultra HD TV you just spent at least a thousand dollars to own. It’s also worth knowing that if for some reason you can’t get your hands on any of the above streaming and VoD UHD content services, hope is not yet lost. Blu-ray discs in 4K are on the way and should be here in March of 2015. At least with them internet connectivity will be a complete non-issue.

Story by 4k.com

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  • November 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Stephen – Thanks for the summary and in including NanoTech (Nuvola and UltraFlix). The UltraFlix channel (as you menioned) is available on Vizio, Sony and a number of other 4K UHD TV manufacturers sets which are awaiting news releases to be finalized so they can be announced. The Nuvola box won’t be required on these sets the UltraFlix channel will be on the sets and consumers can start streaming immediately either freemium or premium content. The 200+ hours of 4K content is a very old number. It has probably tripled since you had that information and the company is aggressively negotiating shared revenue contracts with more content owners than I can keep track of. In addition the company’s division 4K Studios is working with content owners to repurpose HD content to 4K ready. The two locations (Hollywood and San Francisco) are literally working round-the-clock to deliver even more content over UltraFlix and this is in addition to the native 4K agreements that are being signed. The Nuvola unit will be required for people who have – shall we say older 4K sets (without the enbedded channel – for streaming and more importantly in my opinion for game playing. Unlike game systems the Nuvola unit was designed first for streaming 4K content and then for game play (so the requirements are much higher). But game play is equally important because we know there are boomer, millenial and Gen X closet gamers out there and the more than 1500 Android-based games will find heavy actioin by that group of people so there are places for both solutions. I would look for a lot of the 4K UHD sets with the UltraFlix channel at retail over the holidays and at CES this year.

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