Amazon has flipped on 4K video for several movies and TV shows, offering them to Amazon Prime subscribers at no extra cost.
As promised last year, the 4K lineup includes Amazon original series such as Alpha House, Transparent and Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street, along with BBC America's Orphan Black. Later this year and next year, Amazon will offer five more original series--Mozart in the Jungle, Bosch, Hand of God, The After and Red Oaks--and pilot episodes of seven more potential series in 4K.
In addition, Amazon is streaming four movies--Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Funny Girl; Hitch and Philadelphia--in 4K for Amazon Prime subscribers. Other 4K movies from Sony Pictures can be purchased for $20.
4K, or Ultra HD, refers to video with a resolution of 3840-by-2160 in 16:9 aspect ratio. For now, Amazon's offerings require a 4K Smart TV from Samsung, Sony or LG, though additional devices and televisions will be added over time. You can see a list of supported televisions on Amazon's website.
Why this matters: The arrival of free 4K video for Prime subscribers seems like a direct shot at Neflix, which started streaming House of Cards and some nature documentaries in Ultra HD last April. While Netflix originally offered these videos as part of a standard $9 per month subscription, they now require a $12 per month family plan instead. Netflix says the price hike is due to the higher costs of acquiring and producing 4K content.
Amazon could also raise prices, but that seems unlikely in the near future, as the company just increased the cost of Prime membership last March.