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CES 2014: Netflix Says Consumers Unclear on UHD Benefits

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As 4K/ultra HD televisions start hitting shelves, Netflix thinks the industry has a problem on its hands: consumers don’t perceive a benefit in UHD sets beyond the higher resolution number.

Speaking on an International CES 2014 panel, Scott Mirer, director of partner services for Netflix, asserted that consumers have been trained to see TV quality in terms of one number, and since 4K is a bigger resolution that’s all they’ll understand of UHD benefits. While they may or may not see improved picture quality when actually standing in front of a UHD set, their expectations will be trained to this one number.

What the industry needs to do, Mirer said, is educate buyers on the benefits beyond resolution. Buyers need to expect a fully improved experience, but Mirer doesn’t see a lot of education taking place. It’s up to the industry to decide if it’s going to push UHD simply as better resolution or explain other dimensions of improved viewing.

Mirer expressed support for the recently announced Dolby Vision set of technologies, which define other ways to improve UHD image quality including a wider color gamut, higher luminance, and higher frame rates. While Netflix hopes to use that in its ecosystem, these are still early days, he said, noting that this is the first obvious effort to go beyond resolution.

Will buyers be willing to pay a premium for UHD sets? Mirer doesn’t think so. Viewers now expect more and more quality for their dollar, and won’t be willing to pay more. Netflix won’t be charging for improved resolution, color, or bitrate, he said.

Standards will play a crucial role in UHD advances, but Mirer doesn’t think the industry should wait for standards to move ahead. Online broadcasters can now deliver improvements to customers just as fast as they can stream them, he said adding that the pace of innovation needs to move faster than standards adoptions.

Netflix has already said it will take a lead in offering streaming 4K content, but Mirer didn’t offer additional detail on what that content will be. The company has already announced that the second season or “House of Cards” will be available in 4K on February 14, ready for 4K-enabled devices to hit the market. “Breaking Bad” in 4K will follow sometime in 2014. Beyond that, he said, it’s up to the studios to decide how they want to proceed in releasing 4K content.


Ron Martin of Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory and Scott Mirer of Netflix

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