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Streaming 3D and Super HD video comes to Netflix customers whose ISPs will play ball

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Netflix is now streaming 3D video for the first time. In the US, a handful of titles are available, mostly sports and nature documentaries. Other countries will be added to the program "depending on member demand," says a press release. Customers can see whether their ISP is configured for 3D and Super HD video. As for hardware, Netflix has a list of devices supporting Super HD, including current-generation models of Apple TV, Roku, Wii U, Windows 8, and most other devices that can play Netflix video at 1080p. 3D support is more limited: just the PS3 (plus a 3D-capable screen) and a number of LG smart TVs, with more devices forthcoming.

But unless you're on one of a handful of networks, including Cablevision, Clearwire, Frontier, and Google Fiber, it's not likely you're eligible. Data this fat comes with a big fat catch. To watch movies in 3D or Super HD (usually 1080p, but less compressed), your ISP has to participate in Netflix's Open Connect content delivery network. Netflix says the only way to pump data this thick is to cache it in dedicated hardware appliances closer to end users. To that end, Netflix is offering both its appliances and participation in the network to ISPs for free. Think of it like a local fulfillment network, but for high-bitrate video, not DVD mailers.

"Our goal is to have all of our members served by Open Connect as soon as possible." Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is using the limited 3D launch to talk up Open Connect. "Leading-edge ISPs around the world such as Cablevision, Virgin Media, British Telecom, Telmex, Telus, TDC, GVT, among many others, are already participating in Open Connect to provide the highest-possible quality Netflix service to consumers," Hastings said in a statement, adding that "our goal is to have all of our members served by Open Connect as soon as possible."

The trouble is that of all Netflix markets, customers in Europe, Canada, and Latin America are the most likely to have access to Open Connect, while those in the United States (where 3D is available) are the least likely to. So Netflix is taking it to the people with the hope that locked-out customers pester their providers to participate before the big content push begins.

Update: At CES, Netflix and Samsung were also showing off a beta test of streaming 4K video. Which is, like, Superduper HD.

The Verge
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