Perhaps you just picked up one of those new 4K Ultra HD TV sets for Christmas, or are planning to acquire one before the Super Bowl, and now you’ve got a big question–what about 4K programming? Where is it?
It exists, if you know where to look. There’s just not a lot of it.
But have no fear–you’ll start to see more of it in 2016–just not on the big, broadcast networks.
“It’s the chicken and egg thing,” says long-time tech analyst Tim Bajarin, of Creative Strategies. “There haven’t been enough 4K TVs sold to warrant the investment from the broadcast networks.”
But, according to Matt McRae, the chief technology officer for TV manufacturer Vizio, “that will change in the middle of 2016.”
For now, you can see movies in 4K on streaming services Netflix, Amazon Prime and Vudu, and this year 4K Blu-ray discs and players are finally expected in stores. The Dish Network, which announced a 4K satellite receiver at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, is expected to finally begin shipping it this year, while DirecTV is expected to start promoting 4K service in a big way as well.
But programming still comes to down to movies and a few series–Netflix offers the Marco Polo, Daredevil, Grace and Frankie and House of Cards original series in 4K, along with Breaking Bad, first seen on cable in HD and NBC’s The Blacklist.
Amazon offers the originals Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle in 4K, along with movies, while if you have a smart TV with a YouTube channel, the video network offers many videos in 4K, mostly travel and action sport related.
The amount of 4K programming has “gone up tenfold,” says McRae. “But it’s still tenfold over a small number. You’ll see another tenfold this year, and you’ll see a tremendous amount of 4K content coming from the studios.”
One very recent entrant is Ultraflix, a streaming service available on the new Roku 4 streaming media box and select Sony and Vizio smart TVs. Ultraflix boasts of over “600” hours of 4K programming, mostly older movies, available on a rental basis, for around $10 a title. Movies include Gladiator, Top Gun, The Godfather and Beverly Hills Cop.
According to researcher Futuresource Consulting, some 30 million 4K TVs are expected to sell for 2015, but that’s still a fraction of TV sales–which clocked in at 235 million in 2014.
Bajarin says the broadcast and cable networks won’t start to take 4K seriously until 4K TVs are in 35% to 40% of homes–and now they’re at 5% at best.
The good news is that prices for 4K TV sets have come down dramatically–from the multiple thousands of dollars at first, to many under $1,000. Vizio recently broke that barrier with a 43-inch set for $600.
And now that 4K TV sales are starting to take off–look out for 8K.
“I know of at least 3 new 8K TVs that will be introduced at CES,” says Bajarin.
You know the drill–8K = 16 times the resolution of standard HD–time to upgrade your old set.
“That’s how the industry works,” says Bajarin.