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CES 2014

4K Is Great for Everybody Except the TV Networks

Also, poor Michael Bay gets stage fright

Most of it you'll just see in the video, but Michael Bay was not able to make it through the presentation he was supposed to be giving in Las Vegas at CES 2014 because of what appeared to be a problem with the text crawl behind the audience. "The type is all off. Sorry. I'll just wing this," he said, before a brief, valiant attempt to improv his way through the introduction of Samsung's giant 105-inch curved-screen TV. Then he gave up. Video below courtesy of the quick-fingered Joshua Topolsky at the Verge. Bay later apologized, saying he'd skipped a line. He's not an improv comedian, people!

Samsung's new TV will probably be the best place to watch the new season of House of Cards, as Netflix said it will definitely be streaming it in the super-duper-hi-def 4K format that was the belle of last year's CES ball. The streaming service announced partnerships with Samsung, Sony, LG and others; Amazon also announced a partnership with Samsung that includes content producers Warner Bros., Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, and, importantly, nonfiction giant Discovery, which has earned ratings wins over the last several years with its BBC HD nature footage programs. "It's a great idea, because it puts them ahead of the TV networks," said one network exec. "We can't do this sort of thing yet." As usual, TV is hamstrung by MSO agreements, as well as practical problems with bandwidth that could disturb the cable landscape if 4K catches on.

But cable operators that also provide Web connectivity are bound to be happy with the new slew of 4K agreements—if there's one industry that will get an unequivocal financial boost from these deals without having to lift a finger, it's the ISPs. They are likely to get a slew of upgraded subscriptions when their users decide that it's time to bump up to a connection that will enable them to see every last one of Kevin Spacey's crow's feet.

The big question is how thoroughly the format will catch on—is a 50-inch 4K TV really worth the money?—and how bad it will hurt TV to be left behind.

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