Q. I just bought a 4K TV and I am excited about trying out some stuff in 4K. But is there anything that doesn’t require a fee? Even Netflix with 4K requires the subscription to Netflix’s highest paying plan. I could get a Comcast sub because I know they have 4K, but that’s really expensive. Help!! Free, please! — Sam, Greenbelt, Maryland.
Sam, I hear you. You would think that after paying several hundred dollars (or more) for a new 4K TV, you could watch an abundance of programming in 4K without shelling out even more money.
However, I have to warn you that there are very few free 4K options. Netflix, as you note, offers 4K programming with its $15.99 a month plan (the highest it has). Amazon Prime has 4K, but you need a Prime membership. A few other streaming services such as Disney Plus feature 4K programming, but again, you have to pay up.
There are also Blu-ray movies and TV shows in 4K (usually costs more than $20 a disc), and Pay-Per-View options from services such as Vudu (usually costs $5.99 a movie.).
DIRECTV, Comcast, Altice, fuboTV, Verizon and Dish also offer some shows and sporting events in 4K, but you know about the escalating cost of pay TV service.
Unfortunately, the broadcast networks (CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC) have yet to launch 4K editions of their live channels so you wouldn’t be able to access free 4K using your antenna.
So, is anything in 4K free? Really free?
YouTube (the free service, not YouTube TV) actually has some 4K videos for free. I would recommend checking out YouTube’s HDR channel, which can be found here. The vids are available in both 4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range), which can add realism and vividness to the 4K picture.
The current lineup at the 4K HDR channel, which now has 191,000 subscribers, includes videos from the space shuttle, New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations, close-ups of mouth-watering foods being cooked, travelogues from Los Angeles, Seattle and other cities, and a few video game previews. As YouTube itself often is, it’s a smorgasbord of this and that, but there’s no programming from basic cable channels or other live television services.
You can watch YouTube on the 4K TV HDR channel via an app on your Roku. (Note: To watch 4K on Roku, you will need a 4K-enabled Roku device, such as the Premiere or Ultra.)
Roku also carries the 4K edition of the NASA channel for free. The space-oriented network offers both a live stream in 4K (usually from the International Space Station) as well as some On Demand shows.
Finally, Vimeo also has some 4K videos on its free video-sharing service. Mostly just travel stuff, though.
Sam, I hope that helps. Happy Viewing!
Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this Amazon.com link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann