If you’re one of the few who’s bought a 4K high-definition TV this year, you may be experiencing a bit of a glimpse at the future of programming. While over-the-air and cable programming isn’t anywhere near ready to broadcast in 4K yet (and seemingly just now getting past the first phase of 1080p), Netflix seems to be ahead of the herd. While we already know Netflix is innovating in leaps and bounds lately, they’ll be offering a coveted new tool: 4K programming for 4K TVs.
Yes, this might sound like a ploy to buy 4K TVs, and it may be. Regardless, it’s an exciting piece of technology behind this that could be setting the seed for the future of 4K programming. Based on the reports behind this Netflix deal, a specialized chip that decodes the High Efficiency Video Coding standard will be inserted into certain name-brand 4K televisions. With this chip, an internal Netflix app will be able to compress the signal and bring 4K programming for the first time to American audiences.
To really sell this, Netflix will be offering the second season (and likely future seasons) of “House of Cards” in 4K for the first time. Plus, as 3D television was first marketed, nature documentaries will be available to show people just how superior 4K is to what we thought was superior in 1080p.
Regardless, is most of this a major operation to speed up the sale of 4K sets and perhaps hurry 4K programming? It’s going to be another test of the American public to see how they feel about such a quick change after just getting used to another high-definition shift.
The Public Demand for 4K Programming
The tech industry probably feels like the only way to get the public to back 4K programming is to offer programming that they really want to see. As of this writing, 4K TV sales are still well below a million sold, even if projections have them dominating within five years. That could easily fall short if Netflix becomes the only source for programming before the end of the decade.
Many networks will possibly balk at 4K programming without having definitive proof it could be a huge moneymaker. I’ve written before here how the public is becoming almost dangerously circumspect in their adoption of certain technologies since the mid 2000s. With the economy still uncertain, so too are the general public on what direction they’re really going to go. While they readily adopt smartphone advancements and portable gadgets, TV technology seems relegated to a certain demographic that has a lot of money to throw around.
Then there’s the problem of content quality. While we’re in the middle of a renaissance for select TV programming on cable, do people care enough to spend extra money to see it in slightly better clarity? With equal amounts of older programming on cable, much of that rerun content may just look the same on 4K TV’s as it does on one in 1080p.
If Netflix offered 4K for portable devices or desktops, nobody would even bother buying a 4K TV for their living rooms. Once 4K smartphones, tablets, and computer monitors are mainstream, everyone would be watching their favorite shows there as they already are. Only true movie buffs wanting a 4K experience on a big screen would care enough to buy a 50-inch 4K TV for entertaining guests.
With that in mind, deciding the future of 4K TV sales and programming is now our modern-day chaos theory where it could go either direction. As powerful as Netflix thinks it is, they aren’t powerful enough to persuade a public that could very well decide that our technological revolution is moving a little too fast. When combined with the same train of thought from cable networks, 4K TV manufacturers may have to start thinking in terms of decades in sales projections.