Wednesday, August 29, 2018


According to Benjamin Swinburne, Managing Director and Head of Media Research for Morgan Stanley, “It's no secret that internet distribution of content is disrupting television. By our count, there were 120 million aggregate over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions by the end of 2017 in the U.S. alone, suggesting that TV over the internet is officially mainstream” — and we at Video & Audio Center, California’s #1 audio, video and smart home integrator for the past 18 years, agree and feel that the most critical issue today is the growth of 4K content, as we attempt to outline some of the major players in 2018 in this article.

Throughout the years, home entertainment has been a constantly evolving landscape of new technologies; whether improvements in image quality, sound delivery and acuity, networking, aesthetics or even in simple convenience — such as today’s voice-activated remote controls, but nothing quite so game-changing in the last quarter of a century as the advent of 4K TV and the quantum leap that TVs took in providing a true cinematic viewing experience at home; and experts predict that by next year, one-third of all US households will own at least one 4K TV.

On June 26, 2013, Sharp announced the world's first 4K TV with THX 4K certification, and from that point on, 4K TV technology has been consistently growing, improving and becoming less and less expensive. In fact, a 42” plasma TV twenty years ago cost around $15,000—today, you can get a 43” 4K HDR SmartTV —with 4K’s vastly improved image quality—for just over $300 online, we know, we sell thousands of them.

At Video & Audio Center, we’ve been on the cutting-edge of new and emerging technologies for well over 30+ years, in fact, we’ve introduced many of today’s newest entertainment technologies to the public for the very first time, and the question we hear regarding 4K TV is, ‘what about content’—and while its certainly true that until the major TV networks start consistently broadcasting in 4K, that content will still be somewhat limited, but technology abhors a vacuum and the industry has seen a big move towards 4K acceptance across the board from other content distributors—with 4K Blu-ray (as always), plus the emerging internet-based streaming services as well as via local cable companies throughout the country, eventually broadcast (and then, who knows what will be next?).

Here’s a list of 2018’s more popular 4K content distribution options, but keep in mind, this list is constantly changing and expanding as 4K becomes more and more popular in our homes.

In addition to your “regular” monthly bill, it’ll cost about $15 more a month to sign up for Netflix’s Premium Plan, which includes streaming, 4KUltra HD content on up to four screens. It is recommended that you have an internet speed of at least 25 Mbps or higher to reduce any buffering or loss of signal issues. Netflix was one of the first internet streaming providers to feature 4K Ultra HD streaming content, and their commitment to the format has also been growing as the majority of the network’s original series are now also being “filmed” in native 4K.

Amazon Prime
If you’re already an Amazon Prime Member, what have you been waiting for, it’s INCLUDED in your annual membership! But if you’re not a member either consider joining or it’ll cost you around $13 per month. Amazon Prime started out, like many existing providers, with only a small fraction of 4K Ultra HD titles, primarily versions of their originally-produced TV series, but these days they’ve increased those numbers to include most of its newer original series as well as other TV series and movies. Amazon also features a special selection of 4K Ultra HD movies as part of its Prime Collection, with titles refreshing and changing from month to month.

Hulu / Hulu Live

While Hulu is certainly one of the most popular choices for streamers, it has an extremely limited selection of HD and 4K titles. In addition to a full slate of Network TV programming, it does offer access to a vast library of classic shows and movies, and now even offers a live TV option starting at around $40 per month. Due to their relationship with the major networks, and unlike Netflix and Amazon, Hulu gets a great deal of network programming almost immediately after it airs on the network. They’ve also been extremely active in original production—following the trend of content distributors entering into the real of content producers as well.

Traditional Cable TV providers were actually at the forefront on streaming 4k movies “On Demand” to their subscribers for additional fees; and while that has continued, some are now offering access to a small number of 4K-only channels to augment their growing library of 4K movies, documentaries, travelogues, etc., these include:

DirecTV / DirecTV Now
Even though DirecTV was one of the first to provide streaming 4K movies on demand all the way back in 2014, their initial attempt seems extremely limited and subdued. For an additional $6.50 per receiver DirectTV currently offers access to a limited number of 4K movies and documentaries, concerts and sporting events with two, full-time 4K channels; programming this month included the PGA Championship, a couple of baseball and soccer telecasts, a concert and a bare knuckle fighting match among others. You’ll need a DirecTV 4K Ready TV (or standard 4K TV and 4K Genie Mini) and DirecTV’s Genie HD DVR; to receive their new LIVE streaming service you’ll also need to have the latest Genie HD DVR.

Dish Network
It’s pretty much the same story for existing Dish Network users, with live packages starting at $40. DirecTV can provide 4K content both live and on-demand through Hopper 3 hardware and 4K Joey, so live 4K programming is available on any channel broadcasting in 4K, but we already know that’s a small list today.

Remarkably, Comcast streams free to its existing Xfinity TV customers, and has been streaming 4k movie content for over 4 years now—which like DirecTV’s involvement mentioned above, was downright prehistoric for 4K content! You’ll need an Xfinity XG1v4 or a Roku device, as well as specific model 4K TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony (all available at Video &Audio Center stores or online). Like other 4k streaming providers, you can also watch Netflix in 4K via your Xfinity set-top box provided you have a Netflix account.

…and then there’s the user-posted, 4K content distributors such as YouTube, Vimeo and others, both of which have been involved in 4K streaming for the past couple of years, and while the content might not be Hollywood, the production values and sheer quality of the 4K offerings available make this one of my favorite places to find content that really maximizes the capabilities of a 4K HDR TVs ability to even surpass reality in terms of depth of field, clarity, a color palette into the millions and sheer vibrancy of the image.

There are also online streaming companies that either specialize in only offering streaming 4K movies for rent and/or purchase, these companies include names like, iTunes, Vudu, UltraFlix, Sony Ultra, Google Play and Fandango Now, among a growing list of other providers and streaming companies that don’t have any 4K offerings as of this date, such as AT&T WatchTV, Pluto TV, Acorn TV, Philo, and a host of others.
So because the majority of things you watch on your 4K HDR Smart TV will still “only” be in HD, it’s important to understand the role that interpolation plays in your viewing experience. The reality is the panels of the TVs are all fairly similar in capabilities, it’s the interpolation software that re-creates the broadcast signal into a 4K environment, and how effectively a TV handles this task that determines the quality of the image.

That’s why Video & Audio Center only carries the leaders in 4K technologies, including: LG, Sony and Samsung. To see the very latest in today’s entertainment technologies from the leaders, stop into any Video & Audio Center where you can see, touch, and experience all of today’s state of the art models, and here's a short "cheat sheet" for current content providers:


Post a Comment