Netflix Uncouples 'Super HD' from Content-Delivery

Company had previously offered higher-quality format as carrot to ISPs to participate in content-delivery network program

Netflix will deliver titles available in its higher-quality “Super HD” video — which the company says is comparable to Blu-ray — to all members, instead of only those whose broadband providers are part of its content-delivery network.

The subscription-video company launched Super HD along with a few dozen 3D titles in January, only through ISPs with a direct connection to Netflix. That was designed to be an incentive for ISPs to join its Open Connect CDN program, which saves Netflix money on Internet transport costs and delivers content faster to subscribers.

Now Netflix has changed course. “Based on the performance data we’ve seen, and in response to member requests, we are now expanding availability to give all our members the ability to enjoy Netflix in the best possible quality,” Netflix director of corporate communications Joris Evers wrote in a blog post Thursday.

Today more than half of the titles on Netflix’s U.S. service are in HD, but the company has not disclosed how many are available in Super HD. In 2014, Netflix expects to start introducing Ultra HD video, which provides four times the screen resolution of 1080i.

Netflix will continue “to encourage ISPs to adopt Netflix Open Connect,” Evers added. In the U.S., ISPs that have signed on for Open Connect include Cablevision Systems and Google Fiber.

Netflix said the CDN program, under which its caching servers are co-located with Internet service providers, is available no cost to ISPs and is designed to deliver the best possible video.

Time Warner Cable earlier this year had publicly complained that Netflix was asking for “preferential treatment” through Open Connect and that it was “wrong for Netflix to withhold any content formats from our subscribers.”

The Super HD titles are available on only certain devices: Sony PlayStation 3; Apple TV with 1080p; Roku with 1080p; Nintendo Wii U; Windows 8; TiVo Premiere DVRs; and Blu-ray players, connected TVs and other streaming players with existing Netflix 1080p support.

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