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Netflix CEO: 15-Meg Will Be Good Enough To Stream 4K

Netflix hasn’t set a date for its anticipated launch of 4K streaming or previously indicated how much broadband speed consumers will need to obtain it, but CEO Reed Hastings dropped some hints on both counts in a video interview on September 13 with Claus Bülow Christensen, the producer of the Copenhagen Future of TV Conference. 

While Hastings doesn’t expect 4K TVs to fly off the shelves while prices remain high, he sees 4K video first taking hold on tablets, laptops and PCs as resolutions improve on those devices, helping to set in motion the adoption curve and, eventually, lower costs for 4K televisions.

That thinking also seems to fit into why Netflix is keen on streaming video in this emerging format as it gets its hands on a library of 4K source material. “Going forward we’ll see more and more 4K, and that will work really well over the Internet,” he said.

And how much speed will consumers need? “It’s around 15 megabits per second,” Hastings said. “It’s not too bad. If you’ve got a 50-megabit connection you’ll be fine.”

Netflix has been using proprietary video encoding technology from eyeIO to keep the bandwidth requirements of its current streaming service in check, but hasn’t announced if it will be using the vendor’s technology to help it squeeze down the streams for its coming 4K library. Sony is using eyeIO’s compression technology for its recently launched 4K video download service, but confirmed that the size of its 4K movie files will still be in the range of 45 gigabytes to 60 gigabytes. 

But even at 15 Mbps, Hastings doesn’t believe ISPs should worry about 4K video streaming buckling their networks. Given that it’s likely that only a few people in a given neighborhood will be watching 4K video at a time, at least early on, "as an overall system load, it will grow quite slowly and steadily, giving people lots of time to build the infrastructure.”

Much more about the evolution of the 4K market, who's out to an early lead, and a look at the 4K ecosystem developing for programmers as well as over-the-top and traditional video service providers will be covered in the September 23 issue of Multichannel News.