Yesterday represented a big day for the mighty Google, with the internet giant unveiling a number of new hardware products as it moves even further into consumers’ lives.
While its new Pixel-branded phones no doubt stole the show, another notable nugget emerged via Google’s Chromecast Ultra announcement, which revealed that the new $69 contraption, which launches next month, will support Ultra HD video streams from Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube. But buried within the announcement, Google also revealed that its very own Google Play Movies service is getting 4K movies. This has been a long time coming, given that both Amazon and Netflix have been offering Ultra HD movies and TV shows for two years, but 4K has hitherto been prevented from going truly mainstream by a number of stumbling blocks, including price, awareness, streaming bandwidth, and limited content.
Indeed, despite the aforementioned companies embracing 4K for a number of years, the actual amount of available 4K content has been pretty limited, though Netflix has been shooting all its own shows in 4K for a while. Even on YouTube, the available 4K content isn’t great. The underlying sticking point for 4K content has been the lack of demand and awareness in the consumer realm — it has very much been for early adopters, but this is starting to change.
According to IHS, 4K penetration among U.S. households sat at less than 5 percent last year, a figure that’s expected to jump by more than double this year before hitting the giddy heights of more than two-thirds by 2019. It’s a similar story in other markets, including Europe.
Recent data from the NPD Group suggests that awareness of 4K is growing, a factor that is surely linked to the decreasing price of 4K televisions. Many mainstream outlets are now selling them for well under $700, with some 4K-compatible Blu-Ray players shifting for around $400. Put simply, chances are that your next big TV purchase will be a 4K set.
“While sales are spiking and demand is high, 4K UHD TVs remain an early adopter product,” said John Buffone, executive director at NPD Connected Intelligence. “Our data shows that just eight percent of consumers say they have used a 4K UHD TV. But all of the trends point toward rapid growth during 2016 and beyond.”
With Amazon, Netflix, and Google all now embracing 4K, and Ultra HD TV sets becoming more affordable, there is more incentive for movie and television studios to produce films and shows in 4K. So we can expect to see a major jump in super high-quality video in the coming year. The elephant in the content room here is, of course, Apple, which is yet to offer 4K downloads through iTunes — but you can bet your boots that’s coming in the not-too-distant future.