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Sony launches 4K download service; can UltraHD OTT be too far behind?

Sony last week launched its Video Unlimited 4K download service, making available 4K UltraHD television shows, short films and movies to owners of the company’s 4K media player and 4K UltraHD TVs.

Initially, the download service is making available more than 70 4K UltraHD movies and TV shows. A library of more than 100 titles is expected by the end of the year. Shows and movie available for download in 4K UltraHD include “Breaking Bad,” “Moneyball,” “Ghostbusters,” and “The Guns of Navarone.” The 4K download service will offer 4K titles for rent and purchase. Prices will range from $3.99 for a 24-hour TV show rental to $29.99 for purchase.

“Sony Pictures has been working in 4K for several years,” said Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies. “4K mastering and restoration allows us to capture and convey more of the information from a film's original 35mm negative, while new 4K cameras like the F65 offer higher resolution and expanded color palettes to help us create ever-more immersive experiences for audiences in theaters and at home."

The Video Unlimited 4K download service is part of a larger 4K ecosystem Sony has built ranging from 4K cameras and production technology to a 4K UltraHD Media Player for the home, to a growing roster of 4K UltraHD displays, including the new X850 series, and projectors.

"We have been spearheading the advancement of 4K UltraHD technology from the start, and have now reached another milestone as promised with the Video Unlimited 4K service going live," said Sony Electronics president and COO Phil Molyneux.

Given that 4K UltraHD has four times the resolution of Full HD (1080p HDTV), the bandwidth required to transport 4K content is substantial. However, advancements in high-efficiency codecs such as HEVC, the desire of many important industry players ranging from broadcasters to OTT service providers; and recent moves by several consumer electronics giants to make 4K televisions with Internet connectivity available to consumers at a more affordable prices begs the question: How long will it be before 4K UltraHD movies and TV shows will be available for OTT streaming?