While Netflix and Amazon try to lead the over-the-top 4K charge, another lesser-known company has been quietly generating content — and a following — for an Ultra HD-only streaming service that launched late last year.
UltraFlix offers about 100 hours of free content and more than 500 hours of paid content that include movies, documentaries, concerts from artists such as Pink Floyd, Elton John and Peter Gabriel, and an “electronic dance channel” called Armada TV that features music videos from well-known DJs.
The over-the-top service is starting to gravitate to box-office hits, too, coming off a deal with Paramount Pictures under which it began offering the 4K version of Interstellar on March 3 1. Later this month, UltraFlix will begin to offer live DJ and concert events sponsored by Samsung.
UltraFlix bases its 4K business primarily on a revenue share and, in the case of the Interstellar deal, will pay upfront guarantees, Aaron Taylor, executive vice president of sales and marketing at NanoTech Entertainment, UltraFlix’s parent company, said.
Early on, UltraFlix is making its mark primarily on smart TV platforms. It’s available on 4K sets made by Samsung and Vizio, and as an app for Android tablets and smartphones that can handle UHD video.
Taylor said the company has plans to launch as soon as this week on Sony TVs, with debuts on other major brands to follow, including LG Electronics, Hisense, Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba and TCL.
UltraFlix also expects to debut this fall on a next-generation, 4K-capable Roku box, Taylor said.
The company has also held some “preliminary” talks with pay TV operators. DirecTV and Comcast have launched small 4K offerings, and Dish Network is expected to introduce one later this year with the commercial debut of its 4K-capable Joey box.
Taylor said UltraFlix’s audience is small but growing during its soft-launch phase, accruing about 1,000 users a day. He estimates the service currently has about 50,000 active users and said he believes it will reach up to 1.5 million this year as UltraFlix hits more platforms and takes advantage of more aggressive marketing and promotion.
Based on the total addressable market for 4K in North America and Europe, he said he believes the service will ramp up to 5 million users next year.
But UltraFlix, like other OTT video, eats up bandwidth. The service uses a combination of H.265/ HEVC and H.264 encoding, and can stream content at bitrates as low as 6 Megabits per second or as high as 20 Mbps.
“Today we’re exclusively streaming with intelligent buffer management and adaptive bit rate, and we maintain the highest quality and user experience as we can,” Taylor said.
UltraFlix is also looking at other distribution models, including secure USB thumb drives and downloading options that provide even higher quality video than its real-time streaming service. The company is also considering all-you-can-eat 4K subscription channels that could start at $5 per month.
NanoTech is an over-the-counter penny stock firm that runs several divisions, including a media group that includes UltraFlix, one dedicated to content licensing and 4K Studios, which is focused on film scanning and post-processing.
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