Ultra HD and 4K Content
Last Year: Netflix Launches 4K
Last April, Netflix made history, rolling out the world's most comprehensive selection of 4K movies and shows, which feature content displayed at up to four times the resolution of standard HD content. The launch was behind schedule — it was initially promised for January — but was available at no additional cost to a wide array of 4K TV models. And as limited as the catalog was, it included content that people might actually want to watch, such as Breaking Bad and the Netflix original series House of Cards. At last, 4K TVs were going to be more than just sickeningly expensive demo units.
And yet, nearly eight months later, by year's end 4K was still the next big thing waiting to happen. Netflix's selection expanded at a sluggish pace, and it eventually came at a premium ($12 per month for new customers, compared to $9 for a standard streaming plan). More importantly, there was no real momentum across the industry to make 4K resolution a viable feature. Amazon's 4K content, which launched in December, was decidedly slim pickings for Amazon Prime members — who get to watch certain shows and movies as part of their yearly subscription — with a handful of shows and just four movies, including Hitch. Newer movies could be purchased for a significant upcharge ($20 or more), but there still weren't very many to pick from. Not to kick Will Smith when he's down, but After Earth made that list. Industry milestones and historical footnotes aside, 2014 was the year that wasn't for 4K.
This Year: Move Along, Nothing To See In 4K
There were a few trickles of 4K-related news at the Consumer Electronics Show this past January, including Netflix promising to improve its streaming 4K content with the company's version of the HDR (high dynamic range) technology that amps the quality of many digital photos, as well as an announcement from the Blu-ray Disc Association that it will eventually release discs capable of holding massive 4K video files. But so far, there's still nothing to watch in ultra high-def, aside from upscaled HD footage, which is of questionable quality and value. The genuinely bright future of flatscreens is still shining somewhere on the horizon, out of reach for another year.