It seems everyone has their own streaming service these days. Following the success of Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu, Sony enters the game today with the release of Ultra, a platform geared towards 4K movie viewing.
Initially a purchase-only service (Sony has indicated it will consider adding a rental version at a later date), Ultra is being made available for owners of the manufacturer’s 4K TVs that have Android TV integrated. Following the current industry trends, this is initially being rolled out for the US market first before it reaches other regions.
Key to the new platform will be the ability to add existing UltraViolet digital libraries to this service, although this will only be possible with Sony Pictures content for now. Customers that have previously bought HD versions of films from Sony’s online store will also be able to upgrade these to 4K at a reduced price.
The improved viewing experience will come at a cost, though; Sony plans to charge $30 a film for this new service, which compares unfavourably price-wise to 4K Blu-ray DVDs. The pay-per-film model also goes against current market trends and will likely face stiff competition from the pay-monthly streaming platforms that are adding 4K content at no extra cost to the end user.
“Consumers are rapidly upgrading their living rooms to 4K and Sony’s new Ultra streaming service will provide a premium viewing experience to satisfy growing demand for 4K movies and television shows.”
– Jake Winett, vice-president at Sony Pictures
The rationale behind Sony’s latest move cannot be faulted – the technology giant already has a captive audience for video content through its PlayStation user network and, if Ultra is integrated into these systems in the near future as expected, this will offer a painless route to 4K content for its existing customers. Regardless of this small competitive advantage, it is far from certain whether Ultra will be able to seriously make a dent on the streaming market at large before 4K becomes commonplace. For the sake of Sony’s long-term streaming ambitions, it certainly needs to do exactly that.