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Netflix Rolls Out 4K TV Support, for the Extreme Minority that Have It

2 minute read

Oh 4K TV, you tempt me…actually no, you don’t. Who has $2,500 — or upwards of $17,000 for some of these monsters — to spend on another new TV nowadays? Didn’t we just upgrade from the old NTSC standard? Are 1280-by-720 or 1920-by-1080 pixels so visually impoverished? Have Blu-ray’s days come and gone?

If you’re either (a) a videophile who scrimps every last penny to keep up with bleeding edge visual gear, or (b) very, very wealthy, this may be of interest to you: Netflix is now test-streaming 4K video content.

UK-based HDTVtest reported this weekend (and Multichannel News says it confirmed as much with Netflix) that 4K streaming has officially gone live. Multichannel News notes that the initial beneficiaries will be House of Cards (season two) as well as “some nature documentaries.”

You’ll need a set that supports the just-completed HEVC/H.265 video compression standard. That’s short for High Efficiency Video Coding, a standard that supposedly doubles the compression rate of video data without compromising its quality, all the way up to so-called 8K resolutions (8192 by 4320 pixels, if you can wrap your noggin around that). HDTVtest says the streaming bitrate is 15.6 Mbps, which for a two hour movie would come out to roughly 14GB of data (7,200 seconds * 15.6 megabits per second = 112,320, multiplied by 0.125 megabytes in a megabit takes us to 14,040MB, divided by 1,024MB in a gigabyte). If you’re running a residential account and your monthly data cap is 250GB, say, that means you’d be able to watch roughly 18 two-hour shows (or just call it 36 hours, total) of 4K content before spilling over into throttles-ville (or additional-charges-ville, your ISP’s policies depending).

According to a Netflix spokesperson in an email to Multichannel News: “[4K streaming is] available everywhere Netflix is available and the first TV sets are hitting reviewer’s desks and store shelves now.”

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com