Netflix is now offering Ultra HD versions of all 62 episodes of “Breaking Bad,” as well as “Smurfs 2,” “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters 2” in the U.S. — although only a few thousand subscribers actually have TVs capable of playing back the format.
The additional 4K selections come after Netflix began streaming “House of Cards” season two in the format last month. The service also offers the four-part “Moving Art” nature documentary series in the format.
The No. 1 subscription VOD service worked with Sony Pictures Entertainment to add the 4K titles, which are available through select Ultra HD TV models from Sony, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. Netflix added “Smurfs 2” to the service this week, under its deal for pay-TV window rights to Sony’s animated pics.
Ultra HD provides four times the resolution (3840 by 2160) of regular 1080p HD, along with a richer color palette. SPE delivered the “beautiful remastering” of “Breaking Bad” in 4K from the original film negatives, Netflix VP of digital supply chain Kevin McEntee wrote in a blog post.
Today, Netflix’s move to push the 4K envelope is largely about bragging rights — it’s essentially a marketing stunt, given that just 450,000 Ultra HD televisions are forecast to ship in the U.S. in 2014, per the Consumer Electronics Assn.
But Netflix sees an opportunity to take a leadership position in Ultra HD. The strategy makes Netflix a more valuable partner for consumer-electronics manufacturers like Samsung, Sony and LG, which need 4K content to sell pricier Ultra HD TVs. Moreover, cable and satellite TV operators aren’t equipped to deliver 4K video over their existing infrastructure.
The company’s Ultra HD push also is aimed at giving ISPs another reason to install the Netflix Open Connect caching servers — which reduce Netflix’s content-delivery costs. Netflix been engaged in public spats with Verizon and Comcast over the paid interconnection agreements it signed with both providers, with Netflix arguing it shouldn’t be charged such fees.
To deliver the 4K video, Netflix and Sony agreed on an early subset of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF), an emerging SMPTE spec governing file formats and metadata for digital media, according to McEntee. “We are looking forward to the same collaboration with additional content studio partners,” he added.