As much as I loved the first season of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on Amazon Prime Video UK, I’m reluctant to buy it on Blu-Ray or it’s current version on iTunes for one particular reason: while it was shot in Ultra-High Definition (aka 4K), and I can watch it as often as I like on Amazon in UHD, I can’t buy it in any form in UHD – especially UHD Blu-Ray.
It’s a bit ironic that American Gods has a character called Technical Boy who “invites” people into his limousine via virtual reality. In reality, however, I cannot easily buy a TV series in UHD.
The biggest problem with the TV industry at the moment is that only a subset of it (generally the two largest online streaming services – Netflix & Amazon Prime Video) is producing content in UHD. It is also still costly to mass produce UHD content on physical media. In the film industry, for example, not all films are given releases in UHD. Only the really big blockbuster movies are getting the UHD Blu-Ray treatment at the moment, and those cost between £20-£25 each, about £10-15 more than regular Blu-Ray.
Making UHD content available to buy via download or streaming is a different matter. Though that too introduces some hurdles. Do you really get to keep the content? As I found out recently with the BBC Store – if that goes away, so does any content you’ve bought. But thankfully the BBC refunded me entirely and even gave me a bit of a bonus to use with Amazon – for streaming content (whether to rent or buy – I used it to rent).
Apple is said to be announcing a 4K/UHD capable Apple TV next week. This is all well and good, but unless Apple has 4K content to go with it, the upgrade won’t be worth it. The 4th generation Apple TV has been okay for the most part, and practically all my HD content I’ve purchased (or rented) has been excellent (with the exception of Breaking Bad – we need iTunes Extra for TV shows, Apple!). But the biggest problem with the Apple TV has been the lack of support from UK broadcasters. I’m still waiting for ITV Hub, Channel 4, Channel 5 and other UK broadcasters to pull their fingers out of their bottoms and develop their catch-up apps for it.
But I still concede that iTunes/Apple TV is still the best method of buying and keeping content. If Apple can get 4K/UHD on there, it’ll be a start.
I believe it’s about time that at least one broadcasting company steps up to bat and starts to invest in UHD outside of just making content and streaming it as part of a subscription service. It has taken a very, very long time to get to UHD/4K televisions, and yet support for it outside the streaming ecosystem is still very poor.
Starz – please let me buy American Gods in UHD. Either in UHD Blu-Ray or via iTunes (in 4K/UHD) when the hardware is available. Or even both!