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Netflix to Stream 4K via Smart TV App, But Only on Compatible 4K TVs

Netflix is aiming to take the lead in 4K content delivery, with a plan to offer ultra high-definition (UHD) streaming to its customers via a proprietary Smart TV app that’ll be available to those with compatible 4K televisions.

Netflix on TV

Speaking in an exclusive interview with British tech magazine Stuff, Netflix’s chief product officer Neil Hunt revealed that the media streaming provider is planning to stream the second season of its hit drama House of Cards in glorious 4K Ultra HD, starting sometime next year. However, it’s expected that the service will only work with ‘next-generation 4K TVs’ that supports Netflix’s 4K UHD Smart TV app, which means those who bought early will probably miss out.

Hunt declined to name which manufacturers’ UHD displays might be compatible with Netflix’s 4K streaming service, but said that “several” major brands would be launching such sets at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas next month. Our guess is the big 4 of Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic will be among those on board.

However, Hunt had bad news for those hoping to stream 4K content from Netflix through their shiny new Microsoft Xbox One or Sony PS4 consoles – these are currently incompatible, and probably won’t be for some time. Reading between the lines, the next-gen consoles are lacking several features that the next-generation 4K TVs will likely have, including HDMI 2.0, a possible HEVC decoder that’s compatible with the Netflix Ultra HD application, plus licensing agreements.

As far as the actual programming goes, there won’t be a whole lot of it to begin with. Netflix will most likely be limited to producing its own native 4K content, like the House of Cards Season 2 which is being shot and edited for 4K delivery, Hunt told Stuff. He added that there’ll be a number of additional pieces too, but these will be “sample offerings, not a big part of the catalogue”.

Netflix has been working on 4K content delivery for several months now, and its 4K Smart TV app will likely be the culmination of these efforts. Previously, the streaming service showed off its 4K capabilities with a series of seven sample videos titled El Fuente, which depicted travel footage from Mexico at various frame rates ranging from 24fps to 59.94 fps.