Netflix to Lead 4K Content Streaming Push, Will Start With House of Cards

Kevin-Spacey-House-of-Cards-1213According to a recent interview at Stuff with Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt, Netflix will stream the second season of its popular TV show House of Cards in 4K to select Smart TVs (brands to be announced at CES) next spring. The TV show’s second season has already been shot in 4K and is being edited now for a Feb. 14, 2014 debut.

Hunt tells Stuff: “We’re one of the few folk working all the way through from soup to nuts – we’ve got the original content production on one end, and we’re working closely with the CE manufacturers on the other end, and we’ve got the whole delivery pipeline in between. So I think we can be instrumental in beginning the shift of production towards 4K.”

At the moment, this would be one of the few ways to watch native 4K content in your home. Even though multiple 4K TVs are available on the market, most rely on upscaling existing content, such as a Blu-ray Disc, to 4K resolution. Sony, who conveniently also has a movie studio, has a 4K media player that streams its own movies and other limited 4K content.

Netflix plans to stream the 4K content by using a new compression standard, H.265 aka HEVC, which supposedly much more efficient than H.264. Hunt tells Stuff: “We’re pushing forward with new encoding technology – we’ll be using H.265, which is colloquially known as HEVC, instead of AVC H.264. We think with that we’re going to be delivering in the 10-16Mbps range – about 15Mbps is probably what we should think of.”

This is significant in that now a second content provider and heavyweight is working to provide 4K content via streaming solutions, even though that will require more work to become totally feasible, rather than moving toward 4K physical media such as 4K Blu-ray discs. We’ve known physical media was on its way out for awhile, but if 4K content ends up only being primarily available via streaming, then that will really be its death knell.