Netflix Says Ultra-HD Content Costs More, So Subscribers Will Pay More

A higher-resolution, 4K stream from Netflix will cost more. The company has boosted its monthly price for streaming ultrahigh-definition television and movies to $11.99 per month, citing the higher expenses associated with that content. In May, Netflix announced that its original series, such as House of Cards, would be available to stream in the 4K format, which offers roughly four times the resolution of current high-def TVs.

Like most streaming video services, Netflix’s 4K roster is still lean, limited mainly to Sony’s newer film releases, Breaking Bad, NBC’s The Blacklist, and Netflix’s own shows. But the company expects its offerings to increase substantially, beginning next year with its new originals such as Marco Polo, and more film and TV titles that are shot in native 4K resolution.

“We’re very high on 4K, and I think 4K is around to stay,” Netflix spokesman Cliff Edwards says, calling 4K content “material” for the company starting in early 2015. “It’s one of those things, you can see the benefits.” Previously, Netflix’s software would automatically stream 4K content when it detected a set capable of that resolution. Subscribers will now need to choose—and pay—for the higher resolution.

Amazon Studios is also migrating to 4K production for its original series, including Transparent, Hand of God, and Red Oaks. Yet many consumers have been slow to buy Ultra-HD sets, given the still-high cost for most models and the small amount of existing content. New Ultra-HD televisions “upscale” older content to the higher display format, but the quality of that conversion depends on the set’s video processing software. Only material shot originally in the higher resolution is considered true 4K.

For now, the issue of paying more for the top resolution available applies to only a small number of viewers. As with its $1 general price increase, announced in May, Netflix is delaying the immediate hit to current 4K streamers with a “grandfather” period expected to last at least two years. People who buy a new 4K TV this holiday season, however, can expect to pay $11.99 for the higher resolution, or simply watch HD. Netflix’s 4K streams are currently limited to TVs from four major manufacturers.

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