The Dirty Little Secret About 4K Streaming: Content Owners Can’t Afford The Bandwidth Costs

When vendors and industry executives go to a show like CES, none of them seem to be satisfied to talk about what they are doing now. Almost always, they want to talk about the future and something more exciting and for this year, it’s all about 4K. All week we’ve seen companies talking about the role HEVC plays with 4K, improved compression, higher-quality video and hardware devices that will be able to decode and playback 4K content. While it all sounds exciting, the reality is, no one is discussing the business models around 4K streaming and the fact that for most, the economics of delivering 4K content don’t work.

This week we’ve heard a lot of technical talk about encoding, chips and devices, but no one is addressing the cost or QoS issues associated with 4K streaming. Lots of vendors are saying how HEVC “solves the 4K challenge”, but that’s just a technical challenge. What about the business challenge? I have yet to see a single vendor even mention it. No service like 4K streaming will ever come to the masses and survive if both the technical and business challenges aren’t worked out. I don’t doubt that the technical side of 4K streaming will be solid as there are a lot of vendors in the industry who excel in the encoding and compression segment of the market. But so far, vendors are not talking about how they are going to convince content owners to actually adopt 4K streaming and what the benefit is to them for doing so. How does streaming something in 4K instead of HD help the content owners business?

At CES, Netflix, Amazon and Comcast talked about their 4K content offerings and all of them disclosed that the bitrates they plan to use to deliver 4K content, using HEVC, will be between 12Mbps-20Mbps. That’s great for Netflix and Amazon, who have subscription based services and don’t rely on video advertising for revenue, but what about the vast majority of content owners who only make money from their content via advertising? The average broadcaster, news site and publisher, even the large ones, won’t be able to do 4K streaming as the cost for all the extra bits means they will have a content business they can’t monetize. Just think about how much content you view every day, from major content portals, where the max bitrate is 1Mbps. Why aren’t those websites delivering the video in 3Mbps? The answer you get when you ask them is that they can’t afford the extra bandwidth costs associated with it.

To put some real numbers behind it, for a content owner delivering video today at 3Mbps, one hour of video is going to consume about 1.4GB. If they are paying $0.02 (two cents) per GB, which is a low price, it’s currently costing them about $0.03 (three cents) to deliver one hour of video. If they then want to deliver that same content at 4K quality, it’s going to cost them between $0.11 (eleven cents) and $0.18 (eighteen cents), depending on the bitrate used, for one hour of video. Anyone see a problem with this? Content owners won’t be able to sell enough additional ad inventory to be able to justify the costs associated with moving to 4K and that’s just for the delivery part. That does not take into account all the extra costs they will have for encoding the content, storing it and additional costs associated with changes that will be required in their video workflow.

For all the talk of 4K streaming, there will be very little content available in that kind of quality for years to come. That’s the reality when it comes to 4K streaming. I know some will want to argue this point with me and will comment about how compression improves each year and how we’re producing better quality video at lower bitrates. But those are all technical arguments, not business ones. And CDN pricing is not declining enough each year to offset the costs of all the additional bits that are required due to 4K. I’ve spoken to multiple content owners about 4K and they all say that they can’t make the business rationale of offering content in 4K quality, unless it’s just a few pieces of their content to use as a test so they can get familiar with the technology.

Content owners and syndicators like Amazon, Netflix and a handful of others will make a very limited amount of their content available in 4K in the next eighteen months. But even they won’t foot the bill to make a large portion of their catalog available to stream at 4K quality, even years from now. We still don’t have 4K device penetration and that always takes 2-3x longer than the market predicts, to truly get to scale. Content owners aren’t going to spend a lot of money to reach such a small amount of 4K devices in the next 3 plus years. But even if that wasn’t the case, there are only a handful of companies like Amazon and Netflix where the additional costs associated with 4K streaming even makes sense, from a business point of view. They can afford to do it, they are big companies and can experiment. That’s all 4K streaming is going to be for years to come, an experiment. It won’t and can’t be adopted by the masses and content owners and consumers, unless there is a clear business value proposition for doing so.

Next week I’ll discuss how bandwidth costs and business models aren’t the only problem with 4K streaming, delivery and QoS is also something no one is talking about.

  • wellness388

    It seems you are very knowledgable in terms of things that not going to happen and thinks that will never happen. People like you said that about many things before, and they still happened! I dont like statements like , will never, not going to etc. Thats outright stupid in my opinion!

    • danrayburn

      It’s not my opinion, go talk to content owners. Ask them what they say. I work in the real world, not some fantasy land where people hype technology that doesn’t get adopted at all or as fast as many suggest.

      And in this case, 4K’s adoption is not opinion based because you can’t argue with the costs. The numbers are what they are, do the math, run the numbers of delivery, CPM, etc.. and use whatever projections you want for the next three years or more and the numbers still don’t work – for the majority of content owners to offer a large percentage of their content in 4K.

      • Carlos

        YES!, I traveled last year to “Silicon Valley” to meet this “Public Company” and have a business meeting with their CEO and founder. When I arrived to their “Head-Quarters” I turned back before I entered into their “meeting room” to avoid my loss of composure and waist more my time.


      wellness388…just because some haven’t seen what exists doesn’t mean it doesn’t. Maybe they’re just uninformed or misinformed.

      My understanding is that the Nuvola NP-1 is capable of streaming native 4K at 6 Mbps and up. The way I think this works is the 6 Mbps is likely ‘streamable’ with content which doesn’t change much from frame to frame and the more content change there is within each frame the greater the bandwidth required to stream it. The Nuvola NP-1 didn’t win the Visionary Product of the year award for it’s good looks or because it was some vaporware or an imaginary product. In addition, Foxconn and Ingram Micro didn’t agree to manufacture and sell these and other Nanotech Entertainment products because they’ve bought into some fantasy of Nanotech Entertainment. I suppose some will just have to wait and see with their own eyes how it plays out before their minds are enlightened.

      • Carlos

        Nuvola should be fear of their self.

        Their 6Mbps “slow motion demo” is show in a 39″ Seiki Display at a viewing distance of 720p. The content is not even shoot from a real 4K camera.

        This one more of those “HD over 4K” demos, (In this case 720p over 4K)


          Interesting…and you KNOW this how? My understanding is that they are streaming Native 4K at different with bitrates with some 4k content able to stream as low as 6 Mbps. If you could provide a source to support your specific knowledge as it relates to the Nuvola…you’d be doing everyone here a favor. Will wait and see what you come up with. Thanks!

          • danrayburn


          • danrayburn


  • Bee500

    And how much did bandwidth cost when the industry was talking about streaming HD? Bandwidth prices will come down and compression will get better. 4k is in the infancy stage. You and everyone else all know that technology only gets better and cheaper as time goes on.

    • danrayburn

      “Technology only gets better and cheaper as time goes on”. That’s a lazy answer. It means nothing. Better defined how? Cheaper by how much?

      The questions you ask, we already know the answers to and have the data and it’s not favorable. In 2009, it cost Netflix about five cents to deliver one hour of HD content at about 1.5Mbps. Five years later, it costs them about half that. While 50% decline in pricing sounds like a big deal, it’s not as in reality, it’s only a 3 cents decline. And in that five years time, Netflix’s average bitrate has only gone from 1.2Mbps to about 2.5Mbps. So it’s only gone up 1-1.5Mbps, on average, in five years. FIVE years.

      With 4K, your taking about a bitrate having to go up by 5-6x in size and pricing would have to come down, at the same rate, to justify it. If the price is 2 cents today for one hour of video, the price per GB would have to drop to .0009375 per GB, to justify 4K streaming. That is not happening. Most CDNs cost, with no markup, is 3-4x that.

      • Carlos

        Totally agreed. In addition the companies working on supper compression (The serious ones and in real deployments) are telling us that the pace of getting better compression results are getting slower and slower. So this particular progress is not linear but exponential.

        • Mike G

          How long did it take for H.264 to go mainstream? It was about 10 years. I don’t think it is slowing down, I just think that we “forgot”. HEVC is going through the same hype curve that H.264 went through.

  • AngelGeeks

    wellness388…just because Dan Rayburn hasn’t seen what exists doesn’t mean it doesn’t. Maybe he’s just clearly uninformed or misinformed.

    My understanding is that the Nuvola NP-1 is capable of streaming native 4K at 6 Mbps and up. The way I think this works it is that the 6 Mbps is likely ‘streamable’ with content which doesn’t change much from frame to frame and the more content change there is within each frame the greater the bandwidth required to stream it. The Nuvola NP-1 didn’t win the Visionary Product of the year award for it’s good looks or because it was some vaporware or imaginary product. And Foxconn and Ingram Micro didn’t agree to manufacture and sell these and other Nanotech Products because they’ve bought into some fantasy of Nanotech Entertainment. Some will just have to wait and see with their own eyes how it plays out before their minds are enlightened.

  • wellness388

    And the consensus was “yes.” If it’s done right, that is.

    Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies, has been at this since the days of TV’s black-and-white years, and there’s one constant he’s noticed with screens and consumers: The screens get better, and the consumers follow.

    “The 4K business is real, and it’s going to be sustainable,” he said, speaking Jan. 7 at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). “It’s hard to believe that 4K won’t be accepted fact in 3 to 5 years.”

    For 4K to succeed in the home, content producers need to keep it in mind from day one. Studios can re-master content — and have, repeatedly with each video innovation — but costs can be kept down in the long run if content producers future-proof in anticipation of 4K.

    “The big issue that’s holding some back is all the data you create [with 4K],” he said. “The codecs that are being used on consumer [UHD] sets knock down the data considerably. It’s completely manageable.”

    Tom Cosgrove, president and CEO of 3net Studios, said his company is a testament to the industry’s commitment to 4K. 3net has produced 20 hours of content in 4K, and will have 80 finished by the end of the year, he sai

    • Carlos

      Mr. Chris Cookson is right. Last year at our lab, we got a Sony 4K projector and the Sony 4K player, We downloaded several 4K movies and so far everyone who have seen this ends in: “I want this on my home!”.

  • wellness388

    Copies from other people that have reputation, the question was DOES 4k has a chance in todays environment?

  • Ben

    I was wondering about this — thank you for laying this out so clearly: I think the implication, then, is that for content to move to 4K streaming, content creators/owners will need to either move to a different business model (i.e. charge subscriptions for 4K streams) or be able to see some step-change in how they monetize 4K views via ads

  • skippybla

    A little less dooms day than the tweets 🙂 I think it is still a little more glass half empty to make the point…. but maybe that IS the point? Just saying people are doing some amazing things with streaming, some work, most won’t.

    I’m on the content & delivery side mostly. I’ve heard people confusing or more lumping 4k and HEVC a little bit so some of the hype might be misplaced. HEVC is cool for streaming, 4k cool for film production. I have an Elemental, played with HEVC streaming a year ago, but won’t do anything with it just yet but would sooner than 3840×2160. After all, 4k is just a resolution.

    Now the point missing with 4k streaming. What most of my viewers want is a stable stream that looks pretty good most of the time. All the vendors do this by dynamic bitrate streaming that you know about. If they add higher data rates or resolutions [that could include a 4k] with the average rate being 2.5mbps, and the minimum size of the player is 3840×2160 who’s actually going to see 4k now-3yrs? Not many, it is a premium ISP speed. So how much will Netflix pay out in bandwidth for this? Not much. Will this have any impact on subscriptions? Sure could, even if only very little. Will this have an impact on how people see streaming from a grainy stuttering RealPlayer window to a higher quality alternative to cable or even film and gain conversions? Maybe, and they must think its worth the risk.

    For the other broadcasters you mentioned, how many have a 4k workflow already? That isn’t cheep. News in 4k, really? Who? And still, 4k would only display on people with 4k devices. I have a 55 inch TV for movies, not seeing Brian Williams dimples.

    Does image quality impact viewership? Would I pay a premium or sign up at all to get 4k? Would advertisement space cost more if 4k was an option because more people would watch? What percentage of converts would it take to justify the cost? I mean, how else can I watch 4k?

    Besides, what is the difference between h.264 15mbps 1080p and h.265 15mbps 4k stream? The same as the Telsa vs the Volt, right?

    • Paddy0

      Agreed that the Broadcasters are just catching up with workflows to provide 3Gbps 1080 60P service. Commercials ads are not yet being produced in 1080 60P. Remember High Definition 720p/1080i programs and yet standard def commercials were prevalent for some time.

  • novatom

    All the more reason to go back and revisit RF, i.e., good old fashioned over the air broadcasting, and it makes sense. Obviously the data pipes won’t be able to handle the bandwidth but with ATSC 3.0 in development coupled with advances in HEVC, it’s not far fetched to think that broadcast could handle it far better.

  • Carlos

    Saw the demo, this is barely 720p over 4K.

  • Carlos

    Great Article Dan,

    Another dirty secret of many 4K demos at CES: They use a RED “4K” camera (instead of a 8K camera or 4K scanned film or 4K CGI)

    What this means? The RED 4K Camera are based on a 4K monochromatic sensor which is “strategically scaled” to color using a regular Beyer filter (2K Green + 1K Blue + 1K Red) So many of the demos I have seen at CES now are in reality kind of “HD over 4K”. (Kind of what happen last year were many people wondered this is 4K? it looks like HD, I don’t see the difference)

    • Petri

      RED is not a real 4K source? That’s a new one. I’ve viewed plenty of shot-on-RED content on 4K, FHD and 2.5K displays, and there’s a remarkable difference between 4K and FHD. Sure, de-bayering means that shooting 4K resolves something like 3.5K which is why you need to shoot 5K on a RED Epic to get actual 4K after de-bayering. It would be nice to hear how much actual hands-on experience you have with RED cameras, REDRAW post workflows and comparing the footage on various displays. I mean, you make it sound like you don’t have any.

      • Carlos

        RED looks very nice indeed, sometimes even better than some 35mm scanning.

        However when you compare this with per example a Sony F65 (12bit 8K sensor: 4K Greens + 2K Blues + 3K Reds) the results are remarkable. –Of course you must have a real 4K display (i.e. Dolby) and inspect the image at the right distance. Also you need to use the right 4K lenses (i.e Leica) and the right workflow. BUT I can tell you, when all the “planets are aligned” 4K looks just amazing!!!

        If you are in the film industry, probably you have heard that James Cameron was furious when we found this shooting Avatar 2.

        BTW: There is a company in Silicon Valley that developed optical resolution measurement software. When they encode our 4K content they report to us how much of the 4K component has been compromised during their compression for our acceptance.

        • Petri

          Sony F65 does not have a 8K sensor. It’s got 20 megapixels and there’s no way to get 8K out of 20mpix, the math simply does not add up. But F65 produces absolutely fantastic 4K images, there’s no denying that.

          I know how amazing proper 4K looks like, no need to tell me 🙂 I’ve been waiting to upgrade my home theaters to 4K for ages, and it finally looks like I might be able to afford it in 2014. That said, without content there’s no point to spend the money just yet and unfortunately I live in a country where 4K broadcasts are still years away.

          Avatar 2 is shooting already? I thought the production was scheduled to begin later this year.

          • Carlos

            check : pro . sony . com/bbsc/ssr/show-highend/

            Check the part that reads: “the count of pixels on each horizontal zigzag is exactly 8K (8192)”

            (4096 × 2160 greens) + (2048 x 2160 Blues ) + (2048 x 2160 Reds ) =17,694,720 pixels. (8192 x 2160) = 4K 4:2:2

            Also see the comparison to a 4K sensor. (2048 x 1080 = 2K 4:2:0)

          • Petri

            Carlos, a Sony camera engineer admitted to me personally the F65 sensor is not 8K and Sony employs funky math in order to claim that. So many industry folks called Sony out on this when F65 was launched that Sony has since practically stopped claiming it’s a 8K camera. My point is that 8K is 33mpix and you can’t get there with 20mpix.

          • Carlos

            Got it. To get a 8K matrix as in 7680x4320px you need 33Mpx. AGREED.

            So the F65 have 4K Greens and a 4:2:2 kind of combination of RBs to archive UltraHD 4:2:2 (16,588,800px)

          • Guy Faux

            Damn, y’alls pissing match was more informative than the article. Thanks!

  • Ilya

    Dan, I love your article. However your note in one of your post: “While 50% decline in pricing sounds like a big deal, it’s not as in reality” I believe it deserves more attention.

    We have been tracking this angle from Netflix since 3 years ago too. Around that time Netflix reported the delivering of 1.5 billion hours per quarter, last figures from Q3 indicates they are now delivering 4.5 billion hours per quarter. On dollars according to your information this means from $90M to $135M per Quarter. We know that this was possible in part because they acquired technology from a company in Silicon Valley which allow them to save ~50% bandwidth while increasing the video quality by ~25% (Netflix private report), which in my opinion it allow them to stop the user exodus encountered a few years ago and help them to double the number to 40M in Q3-2013. Another part of this equation is that Netflix negotiated so aggressively the CDN cost that some CDNs have told us (off the record) that they don’t make any profit from this account. (I will like to know if this is accurate)

    $135M on savings per quarter may not sound like too much, but a company where the Stock P/E index is 283 today. (Meaning for every $283.00 dollars that enter into the company one is profit). We are talking approximately more than half billion dollars per year on-their-bottom-line. For a company where last net-income report projected for 2013 is $101M this is huge big deal. (It defines Netflix as a profitable or not.)

    Or I’m missing something?

    p.s. Noticed their new price-plan “strategy”: For a “dollar less”, you can enjoy ONE SD stream (SD as a Standard definition and as 1.4Mbps vs 3Mbps). OR For a dollar more ($40M per Quarter), you can continue to enjoy what we Netflix is literally giving you.

    FYI: Our analysis is aimed to explore the OTT technology as a real business option. That’s why I love your article.

    • danrayburn

      Hi llya, last year Netflix spent about $50M to deliver all of their videos. This year that drops and their delivery model changes as they are relying less on third party CDNs and installing caches via their OpenConnect program. So their costs will go down over time.

      Yes, some of the CDNs that were delivering Netflix’s content in the past were not making any money from the business.

    • Kiran Adimatyam

      The company NFLX using for compression is EyeIO. They licensed EyeIO’s compression methodology. How much ever I want to believe that 4K is going to make it to mainstream and will be adopted by users and TV manufacturers, I really doubt it. I have to agree with Dan as I have seen the cos will look for feasibility of ROI on the dollar spent. Very frustrating to see that technical advancements won’t make it to real life. Foremost example is 3D.

  • Mike G

    Am I the only Netflix customer who rarely gets a quality past 2 “dots”? Why bother with 4k when I can’t get 720p? The skeptic in me says that Netflix has a vested interest in seeing that I don’t get 720p even though they encode at very high bit rates. BTW, my download bandwidth is 15 Mbps and when I speed test I get 10+Mbps. What gives? This sounds like more hype to me.

    • Carlos

      You are not the only one… On silverlight I noticed that some new movies have been capped to 3Mbps/720p. On other platforms I saw that it is capped to 1750Kbps/SD, on some mobile devices there is not even half-SD.

      I don’t know if this is temporal (Take a look of todays news at the WSJ “major technical support levels”)

    • EricNV

      I’m with you, but with worse bandwidth. I think the key to 4K consumer success will be with physical media first, with streaming content standards following much later – just as they did with 720P and 1080P 8-10 years ago.

      Too many people who can pay the premium for high-bandwidth streaming services (like me) live too far away from high bandwidth access to make 4K streaming profitable in the short term. Perhaps in 4-5 years 4K streaming will be mainstream (no pun intended), but until then a quad-layered 128GB Blu-Ray disc sounds far more likely to be the route to 4K media support than streaming does.

  • Petri

    Sorry Raul; my point was that I don’t want to see a 4K image ruined by a way-too-low bitrate. This is all starting to sound like a race to the bottom, a competition to see who can crunch 4K down to the lowest bitrate while still having the cohones to claim it looks good. I want a distribution method which allows high bitrates that do justice to the image. 4K Blu-ray might be it.

    • Raul

      LOL! Agreed! 🙂 There is not need to fake HD-over-4K, Some people looks to ignore that at the end, encoders are not more than spectral transformation machines. Bottom line: If you transmit HD over a 4K spectral container and decoded as 4K is just a fallacy… HD should be encoded and decoded as HD.

      What touched my nerve today on other comments, is the irresponsibility of some “people” to take advantage of the 4K momentum and cash some pennies claiming to be a “4K studio”. Real public companies (As in NASDAQ or NYSE) involved on 4K are extremely careful to make sure people can see 4K as a wow factor. 4K is not only 4X more resolution than BluRay but 9X better than people’s everyday HD (1080i/720p). This is the same quality factor that happened last decade where we moved from VHS/DVD to 720p-1080i/1080p, and from BT656 to BT709. (This time on UltraHD from BT.709 to xvYCC/Rec.2020)

  • Padme

    Mostly the discussion here is missing the point that 4K doesn’t need to be a big bang, and that what makes sense commercially, or more pointedly, ‘strategically’ is not OSFA for content providers. Nobody will argue that 4K isn’t more expensive than HD, and nobody will argue after your touted follow-up that 4K can be ubiquitously delivered seamlessly OTT. But put yourself in Netflix’s shoes and ask what this brings; e.g. a halo effect both from a consumer and partner perspective; and impetus to accelerate the technology (ergo commercials), most notable of which will be consumer demand driving the fixed network infrastructure to support more and more consumers at a higher bitrate, consistently. Netflix are not the only ones with muscle who are aiming at further reducing the barriers to compete with broadcast and network infrastructure providers. ‘Online’ is not a ubiquitous experience but there is eventually a tipping point for chord cutting from a ‘quality’ perspective and resting on laurels doesn’t get you there any faster.

  • Paddy0

    Some good discussions on early adoption of 4k and streaming.

    I have my 1080 60P LED TV that I bought in 2006 that still cannot get 1080 60p content from any broadcasters, MVSPs and OTT providers. Core infrastructure elements like Routers, Production and Master switchers are just being able to route 3Gbps baseband signals. Now those same core elements will need to support 12-20Gbps for 4k production.

    HEVC compression is promising, but there are legal and license issues that need to be resolved before this technology can be used. Think of the time it took H.264 to get the legal licensing issues resolved before H.264 was commercially available.

    I know in time these issues will be resolved however, CES seems to push the consumer products way before the commercial technical elements and business models are worthy from a consumer perspective.

  • Crosswindcrab

    Great article Dan, and great rebuttles. But, the home theater post and the subscription based business model will combine to accelerate the sales and deployments of 4K. It will be, if nothing else, 4K to the rich this year, and in a big way. 1MM sets are projected for this year and I predict exponetial growth beyond that. As someone already posted, it will similar to HD.

  • QuietStormX

    Why does bandwith costs so much anyway? Like what Sony has done with the new 4K prosumer handycam for $2K and less as it hits the streets. Is it just CDN’s looking to make bank?

  • Ben Waggoner

    Adopting 4K with HEVC isn’t going to be as big a bandwidth jump from H.264 1080p as the jump from H.264 720 to H.264 1080. No doubt certain business models need to keep content deliver costs low relative to CPM, but that’s been true all along.

    For that market, HEVC is going to be more exciting than 4K, as they’ll be able to reduce their content delivery costs significantly at their current quality levels.

  • Adam Chaney

    Your right 4k won’t be a mass market item any time soon. I know of zero people with 4k TVs. I only just got a regular 1080p LCD 42″ VIZIO TV for about $500, six months ago, before that I had a 720p Plasma which was over 5 years old. I plan on having this TV for another 5 years or more. It looks fantastic and why on earth would I need another one? I’m not wealthy and it suits my needs. 4k TVs will be for the rich early adopters for many years to come.

    • Peter

      100% agree.

      Also, at normal seating distance (say 8 to 10 feet), even if you had a 42″ 4K TV, it would make little or no difference as you would not be able to perceive the individual pixels. You’d need maybe a 60″ or bigger screen to notice a difference at the same distance. Your recent move from 720p to 1080p would be more noticeable and, by the way, I also just moved from a 720p Plasma (50″) to 1080p LED (55″)about 2 months ago.

      I know 1 person who bought a UHD TV at the same time I upgraded – and he admitted last week that he has not yet played any UHD content on it!

      Yes, save your money and 5 years from now you’ll be able to buy a UHD Amoled (60″) for under $1,000 (that’s my current plan and prediction)!

    • Kelsoh

      There are plenty of Macbook Retina display owners now with ~2k resolution screens. I’m one of them and 1080p is beginning to feel lacking now.

      • Adam Chaney

        I’m talking about TVs NOT computer monitors.
        Computers monitors should be as high resolution as possible. I’m all for ultra high computer screens that you are 18 inches from. BUT having a 4k TV is overkill since you still many feet from it and there is only a small selection of 4k content available, and it’s very expensive or you need a mondo internet connection for Netflix.

        • Kelsoh

          4k’s are great for converting a TV into a computer monitor, which is increasingly the standard use case for large screens now any way.

          Also if you look at media consumption patterns (especially among younger generations) I would argue that increasingly media content is getting consumed on laptops, not large televisions. Higher than 1080p make a noticeable difference here.

          But I see your point that a traditional smaller television at farther away viewing distances makes 4k less noticeable.

          I would say though, go to a best buy or future shop and take a look at a 4k television next to a 1080p one. You will notice quite an appreciable jump in image quality. 4k has almost a creepy level of real worldness to it in the resolution that it’s achieved that 1080p still is lacking.

  • I’m a little less concerned about providers finding a way to shoulder the cost — subscription services like Netflix could just make 4K a premium tier, like the way ad-supported Crunchyroll is SD and only paying subscribers get HD. What I’m more worried about is the end-users hitting their data caps. With U-Verse, I get 250 GB/mo, and burning 20-50 GB per 4K movie is going to eat into that pretty quickly.

    There are plenty of good reasons to be skeptical about 4K; bandwidth is just one of many.

    • JF

      bad news … blu-ray is 20-50GB … 4k will be 150GB+

      • The math isn’t that simple. Streaming generally uses lower bitrates than discs (HD Blu-Ray is 20-40 Mbps because they’ve got the room on disc, while HD streams generally top out at 8-10 Mbps). I think Netflix has said they expect 4K over H.265 to require 15 Mbps minimum, which gets us to the 20-50 GB range I cited for a two-hour movie.

        Your math does make sense for a hypothetical 4K disc format, presumably a successor to Blu-Ray? But comparing discs to streams is apples to oranges.

        • Jon Donnelly

          Blu-rays blows the pants of streaming services for quality, 20Mbps for 4k would be massive compression, full of artifacting, especially in scenes with lots of motion.

        • garywildd

          It won’t be a disk, it will be a locked SDHC card playing on a little Apple TV-size box.. and sold where they now put gift cards. And, of course, sold on the web.

  • Technopundit

    Hey Guys: Before you try to sell me another generation of video, how about sending me a video stream that consistently fills the HD screen I bought last year?

  • There’s a ton of content out there that’s been captured in 4K. Most drama is captured this way. So it can and will be remastered when it makes senses economically. For example, House of Cards is shot on 5K cameras. When they release it as 4K and HBO starts delivery of 4K content via HBO to Go, consumers will start asking why their 720p cable looks so bad. It will take time, but when people come over to my house and look at my broadcast 1080p signal compared to their cable they notice. And 4K is a bigger jump.

    • Christopher Levy

      Most users playback HBO GO on their mobile devices where 4K is a lost technology. It’s practically useless on a device where the screen is smaller than the keyboard I am typing on.

      • Resolution on an iPad Air is 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi) today. Where will it be in 4 years? What will it be when its screen reaches it’s bezel? At a viewing distance measured in inches instead of feet, resolution matters even more.

        • Christopher Levy

          and while that is the case, users have shown they don’t care. You can hardly tell an SD from an HD stream in Google Play Movies on a modern tablet. The 4K value proposition is lost in the mobile space and it won’t be a factor for many many years to come. The only real benefit would be playout on a Widescreen TV or Monitor. Similarly HEVC is lost in the mobile space as a needed tech for a good year at least. Both of these techs are trying not to be the next 3D.

          • garywildd

            I disagree. Every time you convince the public they have something new and better, they take it. Whether it IS actually better is besides the point.

        • William Murphy

          That resolution and the high PPI on the iPad, iPhone, and new MacBooks is a must for reading tiny text. For example a grain of rice would cover the entire word rice on my screen right now.

          That is great…

          When watching a movie on my iPad I could care less if it was 720, 1080 or higher.

          480P is just ok

          On my iPhone 480P is more than OK!

          Don’t get me wrong I’ll be replacing my 1440P and 1600P monitors with “4K” monitors sooner than later… But that’s for productivity and PC gaming which seems to be the only 2 things actually ready for 4K. Console gaming will not be ready for 5-10 years (next consoles) since current consoles cantn deliver 60 or sometimes even 30 FPS at 1080P and so the brand new XBOX One is already running at resolutions lower than 1080 and then upscaling them.

          Streaming… Well you need everyone to have compatible streaming devices which will be inside the more expensive TVs but not all of them. The PS4 and XBOX One might become 4K compatible…

          Why would companies want to stream to this small percentage of people? I think 4K will catch on faster than HD if you consider HD to be 720P/1080i/1080P. The first HD ready rear projections TVs came out before 2000 and several hundred dollar plasma screen where out in 2002.

        • Ethereal Epicenter

          Nowhere, most flagship phones/tablets have resolutions beyond the limits of human perception.

  • Our company is about to show a 35mm film scanner that runs at 12bits, 4096 x 3040 at a blistering 24fps

  • Dimitrios

    The Sony f65 (which in my opinion is the only technology that really might be better than film is offset at about a 30 degree angle that’s why its not real 8k but [art of the reason why the picture looks so awesome.

  • Cosmic Warriorz

    I have a 4K video camera. Uploading the video to you tube is easy. However, even with my high power multi-core computer that has lots of memory… it takes me one hour per minute of video to render in 4K and that is using all system resources.

    What we need is more processing power.

    • Oleg Safronov

      delivered 4K content would have to be decoded only on the consumers end, this is relatively fast, but for sure requires additional computing resources. what you doing with your 4K video you shot with the camera is transcoding – the video is decoded into plain full-frame 4K stream and then encoded using the chosen codec and resolution. Then you upload results of transcoding to YoutTube, supposedly in 1080p(2K) or 720p.

    • garywildd

      Good, you just told me I should hold on to POETF. Planar opto electronic technology — way faster, a lot less power, existing fabs! Grab it.

  • Informed

    There will be two classes of content, free ad supported sub-4k junk, and paid premium 4k content. It’s important to separate the two. Regarding the delivery, time warner cable, widely regarded as one of the worst providers, just proactively offered to quintuple my bandwidth from 20 to 100 Mbps without any change in costs. Who cares about QoS when you have 2-3 times the bandwidth you need to stream 4k reliably.
    We’re 1 year away from good 4k content that people want to watch….2 tops. All the other sub-par content providers who “can’t afford it” will go the way of the dodo in the next decade.

    • Kelsoh

      Agreed, I suspect we’ll see bandwidth go up as ISP’s try to exploit 4k as a kiler feature within their own digital cable packages.

      • Jason L Martin

        4k streaming is a good theory but it means anything to someome who lives in a rural area and gets maybe 0.46mbps during the evening hours on his monopolized internet provider

        • John

          The cast majority of people do not live in rural areas though. For 99% of the population, 4k is viable in 2017.

  • Jon Donnelly

    If you sit 3 meters from a 55″ tv, you can barely see any difference between 4k and 1080p in youtube. Bluray is only 1080p and looks superb already. I can’t see people racing to get 4k.

    • garywildd

      You mean you can’t see engineers racing to get 4K.

  • jk2001

    I find that when I’m sitting on the couch, and the tv is on, I read my phone. 🙂

  • garywildd

    it’s not whether you can tell the difference, it’s about bragging rights. So people WILL want 4K, And cable operators will gladly provision higher bandwidth to get millennials back in the fold. Finally, cable can’t possibly carry all the sports content lying around. The big sexy games will go over the top and the crud will be on HD. Nothing ever on SD again. Content owners that won’t pay for extra bandwidth will be left holding the bag. Your mind is way too technical.

  • would you pay to watch Hillary make a speech on 4k TV?

  • Ben Larkin

    2 Years after this Article and my family streams 4k content from Netflix every single day for several hours (with even the guilty-pleasure binge watch on the weekends).

  • Geri Portillo

    my assistant wanted IRS 1120-L several days ago and discovered a great service that hosts a lot of fillable forms . If people are looking for IRS 1120-L also , here’s