The good news is that 4K television prices are dropping faster than any category of electronics in recent history. Ultra high-definition screens have fallen around 85 per cent in the past two years, to the point where they’re just about affordable for the average household.
The bad news is that there still isn’t anything to watch on them (legally)—and what little there is is getting more expensive.
Netflix has been offering ultra high-definition 4K—so-called for the screens’ horizontal resolution of 4,000 pixels, about four times greater than full HD—for the past few months, but the company only recently sneaked in a quiet price increase.
In August, Netflix started requiring 4K TV owners to sign up to its more expensive $11.99 plan, whose previous sole benefit over the regular $7.99 plan ($8.99 for new customers) was an additional two simultaneous streams, for a total of four.
For some reason, no one really cottoned to this till last week. Netflix says the price hike is necessary because 4K content costs more to produce and acquire.
It’s an oddly timed move, given that the streaming service has so little 4K content. In the United States, there’s all five remastered seasons of Breaking Bad, season two of Netflix’s own House of Cards and season one of The Blacklist, plus a bizarre trio of movies:Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2 and Smurfs 2. Oh, and there are a handful of nature videos—the sort of demo reels you might see playing in loops at Best Buy.
In Canada, the pickings are even slimmer with only Breaking Bad, House of Cards and the demos (much to the dismay of all those 4K-owning Ghostbusters fans out there).
So why raise the price when subscribers get so little in return, unless this signifies a longer-term plan for Netflix?
Company executives believe 4K will be mainstream within the next few years, and they’re right. Although ultra HD provides only a marginally better picture—I’ve been testing a group of 4K TVs for the past few weeks—a sharper image is still a sharper image. Just as 3D went from an expensive gimmick to an expected feature, so too will all televisions eventually have higher resolution.
But does that mean Netflix is ultimately eyeing an across-the-board price hike? A spokesman for the company could not be reached on Tuesday, but I’ll revisit the issue if and when I can get in touch.
In the meantime, 4K TV owners—and future-proof-minded consumers thinking of upgrading – can take solace in the fact that ultra HD-capable Blu-ray players are on the way late next year.