When Will Kiwi Streamers Offer 4K?

Chorus reports “pent-up demand” for 4K streaming in this market but none of the major NZ platforms are rushing to offer it.

While 4K is the norm for new releases on Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney+, don’t expect Sky’s Neon, TVNZ+ and ThreeNow to follow their lead anytime soon.

This is despite streaming accounting for 45% of all traffic on Chorus’ network.

“There is an apparent pent-up demand for 4K content with nearly a third of households in New Zealand having a main TV that is 4K-capable,” Chorus CEO JB Rousselot said when releasing his company’s annual results.

“While 4K content offerings in New Zealand lag other markets, especially in live sports, we expect to see a significant impact on broadband network capacity as these higher resolution streams become available.”

Chorus reckons NZ has some of the best connectivity in the world for streaming 4K content. But it’s not on any of the major players’ radars, it seems.

Even NZ’s top telco Spark plays down the industry’s 4K capabilities by bundling its Netflix service in only the standard HD plan.

TVNZ is in the midst of a multi-year digital upgrade but can’t provide a timeframe for 4K while WBD isn’t commenting on its upgrade plans for ThreeNow beyond what the NZ Herald published on Sunday.

Sky’s new Box is 4K-capable but the pay-TV operator won’t be proceeding with 4K streams or broadcasts because of the higher cost of licensing content in the format.

However, this hasn’t stopped Foxtel in Australia from offering sports and movies in the higher resolution since 2021.

Telco insiders believe local broadcasters and streaming service providers ultimately will have to meet consumer demand and do likewise here.

Of course, 4K streaming isn’t of the same quality as the mastering of 4K-UHD Blu-ray discs. As What Hi-Fi explains:

When it comes to streaming services, as you might already know, a 4K stream is not going to compare with a 4K Blu-ray in terms of video quality because of bandwidth limitations. Most streaming services aren’t sending 100GBs worth of data to you when you’re watching a 4K movie: a 4K Blu-ray disc can run up to around 128Mbps while streaming services tend to cap out at around 17Mbps. Of course, that 17Mbps number will drop even lower depending on your internet connection, too. Suffice it to say with 4K streaming, the biggest limiting factor is going to be bandwidth because of just how much data goes into 4K footage.

But it still would improve on the local industry’s highly-compressed 1080p streams, to say nothing of AMC+’s 720p, especially when the audio also would be boosted to multi-channel.

And as can be seen from Chorus’ 2022/3 highlights, far more households are now equipped to stream in 4K:

  • Fibre uptake: 73% in UFB areas, with UFB fibre rollout now complete
  • Fibre growth: added 72,000 fibre connections in FY23, totalling 1,031,000
  • Fibre plans: 91% of residential and business connections above 300Mbps
  • Revenue: grew to $980m from $965m in FY22
  • EBIT: down to $226m from $248m in FY22
  • Net profit: down to $25m from $64m in FY22
  • Dividend: 42.5 cents per share, unimputed for FY23.
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2 Responses to “When Will Kiwi Streamers Offer 4K?”

  1. Content is king. Doesn’t matter whether you have rubbish content in 4K, it’s not going to get people watching. And if the content is king but the viewer doesn’t perceive value from higher quality (in terms of propensity to pay or advertiser to fund), then there is no justification for higher quality. There are too few videophiles (and audiophiles) that are willing to pay. Most expect it for free. And expecting something better for nothing is poor economics and is unsustainable as a business model.

  2. Interesting TVNZ+ sport stats for the first month: 1.25m streams across 200k viewers. The Ashes accounted for 830,000 streams (looks like 20,000 streams per Ashes session). 430k streams for all other sports across the month. Is it enough to entice TVNZ to invest in more sports?

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