On December 8th, Vimeo announced a major upgrade to its 4K capabilities. Now, a day later, Amazon is also announced its own support of the ultra-high definition format. Subscribers to the Amazon Prime service can now stream films and TV in 4K quality.
“We want to deliver the best entertainment experience, and offering Ultra HD movies and TV shows raises the bar on quality and innovation that customers have come to expect from Amazon,” said Michael Paull, VP of Amazon Digital Video, in a release. “We’re also excited that Ultra HD is the latest benefit of the Amazon Prime membership, giving members instant access to great movies and TV shows in a premium picture resolution at no additional cost.”
In terms of Amazon’s ability to keep up with its competitors, the decision to offer 4K is a bit of overdue. Netflix, which serves as Amazon’s main rival, has offered 4K quality since April, and the first YouTube video at that resolution was Netflix’s season two trailer for House of Cards.
On the other hand, Amazon has timed its announcement well. Netflix recently began charging a three-dollar premium for its ultra-HD service, a move that has been criticized by some outlets. Amazon’s approach to ultra-HD will be more popular among consumers. As Paull said, Amazon Prime users will be able to unlock 4K at no additional cost.
Of course, for this to emerge as a big advantage in Amazon’s favor, users have to actually be interested in 4K streaming. When it announced its own 4K options, Vimeo blamed the format’s lack of widespread popularity on ISPs. It said its 4K streaming option will be ready “by the time broadband providers start widely supporting the high speeds required.” At most current speeds, streaming 4K video is a choppy experience.
The proliferation of 4K among major streaming platforms shows that the technology for the format is available, and judging by the YouTube community’s warm response to the announcement of high frame rates, graphical advancements are in demand. As Vimeo said, the onus is on ISPs now. In the meantime, for customers with sterling speeds, Amazon’s upcoming original programs are going to look great.