Netflix testing 4K Ultra HD streaming

The video-streaming service wants to have an Ultra HD selection available for users in 2014.

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
2 min read

US-based video-on-demand service Netflix has been testing streaming 4K Ultra HD files, with an aim to having a large catalogue of shows available next year.

Netflix showing off 4K streaming at CES this year. (Credit: Nic Healey/CNET Australia)

While TVs capable of Ultra HD resolution have arrived from most of the major manufacturers, the problem with 4K remains the content — or lack thereof.

The large size of the 4K files and the difficulty of delivering them either via physical media or digitally has proven tricky for most studios and distributors, even those currently shooting in Cinema 4K.

At CES in January this year, Netflix and Samsung collaborated to show streaming 4K on Samsung's stand. Netflix has followed up on this test, offering live sample files of 4K video for streaming on its service.

It's not exactly compelling viewing, the files are mostly test footage designed to showcase Ultra HD (think push biking and children playing), but Netflix definitely has its sights set on a more robust offering.

As GigaOm reports, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings used a recent earnings call to announce that he wants the company to be “one of the big suppliers of 4K next year”.

It's believed that Netflix will initially leverage its own original content, meaning that Ultra HD versions of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black could be on the way.

Of course, with Netflix still unavailable in Australia, this doesn't mean a lot for local consumers. Connection speed also needs to be taken into consideration. Although Netflix hasn't given any figures for how much data is transferred during streaming or how much bandwidth is required, the US certainly trumps Australia for speed. In fact, with an average connection speed of 8.7Mbps, the US is ranked ninth in the world, compared to Australia in 45th with 4.8Mbps.

But the fact that a service of Netflix's size and standing has firm plans for 4K streaming in place may finally give Ultra HD entertainment the boost it needs to become a mainstream home-entertainment technology.