Netflix’s Hunt: More HDR on the Way

Chief product officer for streaming media giant offers update on HDR for consumers, inclusion of technology for future Marvel releases

Netflix isn’t the first to offer streaming content enabled in high-dynamic range (HDR), but its imminent inclusion of the technology for its original series Marco Polo and Daredevil promises to be just the beginning of HDR for the company, according to Neil Hunt, chief product officer for Netflix.

Hunt offered B&C a quick look into the streaming giant’s HDR plans, what consumers can expect in terms of bandwidth needed for HDR, and what makes HDR stand out above simple 4K content.

Netflix had long discussed the possibility of HDR, and subscribers will now get to see it. What in general led Netflix to pull the trigger on HDR support (number of 4K TVs with HDR, consumer interest, etc.)? It’s all about consumer experience. HDR has great potential in terms of raising the bar on picture quality beyond what 4K offers today, and we are always striving to be on the cutting edge and deliver the best possible experience for our members while also staying true to the creative intent of the storytellers.

Marco Polo season one and the second season of Daredevil have been mentioned as the first Netflix seasons available with HDR. Is there a reason these shows will be first out of the gate? And can we peg down a general amount of HDR-enabled content that will be available by the end of the year? Marco Polo season one will be readily available in both formats (Dolby Vision and HDR 10). Additionally, we will have Marco Polo season two, Marvel’s Daredevil season one and two, and hopefully the upcoming Marvel series will be in HDR in the near future. We don’t have anything to announce as far as additional content (or timing) currently, but plan to grow it steadily much like we’ve done for 4K content over the past couple of years.

Netflix will support both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. Are there unique challenges with either, especially when it comes to compression or the amount of bandwidth that will be needed in the home? Both formats will require a bit more bandwidth than comparable UHD bitrates, on the order of 10-20% higher. Note that HDR can also be enjoyed at HD resolution, independent of 4K, at bandwidths slightly higher than current HD.

And what makes HDR such a big, visual improvement for consumers, beyond just what 4K can offer? While 4K is about more pixels, HDR is about getting better pixels to give viewers a much more realistic and exciting TV viewing experience. Put simply, HDR is a way to bring even higher tonal range and variation of color to images. The new technology this year looks great, and we think that it will continue to get better and more visually impactful in the future.

For more on Netflix’s HDR push, check out Broadcasting & Cable’s recent report on HDR here.