See an update on this story here.
What's Wrong With Netflix's 1080p Titles
Washington, D.C. (January 21, 2013) -- Jim Finley of Neptune, New Jersey was excited when he learned that Netflix was starting to offer 'Super HD' 1080p titles in its streaming library. His TV and Internet provider, Cablevision, had signed up for Netflix's Open Connect delivery system, which is necessary to get Netflix's 'Super HD' 1080p.
Jim was particularly excited -- and feeling fortunate -- when he read that Cablevision was the only TV provider in the U.S. thus far to sign up for Open Connect. He knows that 1080p, when delivered at a higher bitrate via the Open Connect program, offers a sharper picture than Netflix's usual HD streaming.
However, Jim's excitement soon turned to dismay when he couldn't find any titles in his Netflix menu that had the 'Super HD' logo by the movie or show's name, which Netflix uses to denote a video is in 1080p at a higher bitrate. The New Jersey resident couldn't understand what was wrong. He had clicked on the Netflix 'Open Connect' page and verified he was authorized to get the 'Super HD' 1080p titles. And Finley has a Samsung Series 8000 Smart TV, which includes Netflix among its video streaming services.
He finally contacted TVPredictions.com on Sunday and asked for help.
I immediately called Netflix's Customer Service department who told me there were only three 1080p titles in its streaming library.
"You have to remember this is new," the Netflix CSR said.
Asked to name the three titles, the customer service rep told me she couldn't and put me on hold. She came back and said all Netflix streaming titles are in 1080p.
I told her that wasn't possible because not all Netflix titles are even in HD. She put me on hold again and came back to say she didn't know how many, or which, titles are in 1080p. She added that she asked everyone in her office and no one knew which titles are in 1080p.
So after that run-around, today, I contacted Netflix's chief communications officer, Jonathan Friedland, who told me there are thousands of Netflix streaming titles in 'Super HD,' or 1080p. He named a handful: Lorax, Thor, Hugo and Tintin.
I then asked him if any Smart TV would be compatible with the Netflix 'Super HD' 1080p delivery system and he said: "Yes, any Smart TV should be compatible."
Excited, I told Jim to check out Thor on Netflix on his Samsung Series 8000 Smart TV. Here's a picture of what Jim saw:
If you notice, there is no 'Super HD' logo. It says Thor is in 'HD' but not 'Super HD.'
"Very aggravating," Jim said.
I then asked Jim to send me a picture of his Open Connect confirmation. Here it is:
I then went back to Jonathan for an explanation and he said there is a list on Netflix's web site of all streaming devices that are compatible with Netflix's 1080p delivery system. Here is that page but if you notice, it actually says "Smart TVs with existing Netflix 1080p support" are compatible, not all Smart TVs, as Jonathan said earlier. The page also says Sony Play Station 3, Apple TV with 1080p, Roku with 1080p, Nintendo Wii U and Windows 8 are compatible.
I asked Jonathan for a list of compatible Smart TVs and Blu-ray players and he responded:
"There are a large number of Blu-ray players that are 1080p enabled. Netflix now streams on over 1000 devices. B/w 300-400 can handle the higher encodes.
Here’s the problem in getting too specific: I could say that all 2012 Echo DTV from Samsung has SuperHD capability. But there are literally dozens of model numbers within the group, some of which aren’t on sale in the US market. So, to be accurate here, we’d have to parse through the models to get you a complete list. The work entailed in that, plus the frequent changes in model availability, are the main reason why we suggest that if you have a Samsung/Sony/Vizio/LG/Panasonic/Philips TV or Blu-ray, you just turn it out and check whether it streams in 1080P or in SuperHD."
In other words, there would be no list of which Smart TVs or Blu-ray players are compatible with Netflix's Open Connect 1080p system. No list for me. No list for Jim. And the suggestion to try to check your TV's resolution was of no help to Jim. He says his set will not respond when he hits the Info button (which can detail the picture resolution) when Netflix is on.
I then told Jonathan that I was going to write an article saying it's unclear if you will get 1080p from Netflix even if your TV provider signs up for Netflix's Open Connect system. His response:
"Any movie and TV show that Netflix carries at 1080p and Super HD is available to customers of open connect enabled broadband services provided they have a device capable of streaming in high definition. A list of devices is available on the open connect site."
Again, the Open Connect site does not list which Smart TVs and Blu-ray players are compatible with Netflix's 1080p system. And apparently not all Smart TVs are compatible, as Jonathan said earlier.
Bottom line: If your TV provider decides to join Cablevision and sign up for Netflix's Open Connect 1080p delivery system, don't get too excited. You might get 1080p from Netflix, or you might not.
Just ask Jim.
Final Note: Netflix says it has been showing 1080p movies at a lower bitrate (3.8 Mpbs) prior to the Open Connect 'Super HD' 1080p program, which requires a minimum bitrate of 5.7 Mpbs. However, as a regular viewer of Netflix's streaming HD titles, I could not say the non-Super HD titles offer a picture anywhere close to 1080p, at least when compared to a 1080p Blu-ray picture or even Vudu's 1080p offerings. I have yet to see a Super HD 1080p title since I don't have Cablevision.
See Today's Top 10 Selling HDTVs
Today's 10 Best-Selling Blu-ray Titles