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Apple Is Right: 4K Movies Do Cost Too Much!

News Analysis
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple and the Hollywood studios have been battling over how much consumers should pay to purchase a movie in 4K. Apple, says the report, wants a $19.99 price tag while the studios prefer something between $25 and $30.

The battle apparently has slowed Apple’s effort to strike agreements with the studios to offer their 4K films on Apple’s new 4K Apple TV streaming device, which is likely to be unveiled next month.

Hollywood’s stance is not particularly surprising. Most new-release 4K Blu-ray movies cost $25, although Amazon often lowers the price by $5 or so after the title has been on the market for several weeks.

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The studios believe that 4K is a premium product that will bring back a premium price; they had a similar view roughly a decade ago when they began releasing movies in Blu-ray high-def. The early Blu-ray titles were priced at $10 or more than their DVD counterparts.

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Now 4K Blu-ray titles are getting the same respect with their prices nearly $10 more than the high-def Blu-ray.

However, that’s where the studios are wrong and Apple is right.

The difference between 4K and high-def is not the same as the difference between high-def and DVD. While 4K can deliver an incremental upgrade in picture, it’s not an eye-popping improvement as high-def was when it was introduced more than 10 years ago.

In fact, many consumers can barely tell the difference between 4K and high-def, particularly if their 4K sets are under 60 inches. (The bigger the set, the more likely you will see the difference in the 4K picture.).

And don’t get me started on HDR (High Dynamic Range), a 4K feature that purports to deliver a more vivid and colorful picture. Some 4K titles in HDR look somewhat better than a regular 4K while others (to this old reporter’s eye, at least) don’t look any better than a Blu-ray disc.

While HDR improvements are on the way, right now it’s one of the most overrated new technologies on the scene.

Making matters worse is the never-ending skirmish over 4K formats that leaves consumers more confused than they were during the early Blu-ray-HD DVD format battle in the mid 2000s.

Bottom line: Asking people to pay an extra $10 for a 4K movie is ridiculous. Simply ridiculous, whether it’s an online download, as Apple wants to sell, or a hard disc, as in the form of a Blu-ray title.

The studios should be bending over backwards to get consumers to sample 4K TV video rather than giving them yet another reason not to buy a 4K TV.

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Final Note: Some 4K titles are better than others; those titles can deliver a slightly improved viewing experience than a regular Blu-ray. But there’s a huge gap in picture quality from one disc to another. Overall, 4K does not yet deliver what the studios have been promising.

— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (697 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

5 Comments on Apple Is Right: 4K Movies Do Cost Too Much!

  1. Not paying extra for 4K when HD is available. Get over it Hollywood.

  2. Could not agree MORE with ALL your comments, Swann.
    Everything you said is TRUE.

    I have (2) 49″ 4-K SONY XBR TV’s and a 49″ Sony XBR HD TV.
    There is a slight Improvement (UP-Scale) on the 4-K TV’s. but not that much.
    Have DirecTV

    I also subscribe to Netflix. (Sometimes they Broadcast a 4-K show) I Compared the 4-K Broadcast on the 4-K TV. You really have to look hard to “Maybe” see a difference from HD to 4-K.

    What I notice has the BEST Picture are some COMMERCIALS in Plain HD.

    What I DON’T like is DirecTV charging $ 10.00 for HD anymore.
    DirecTV’s NEW customers DON’T get charged for HD, but the LONG TIME, still NON Cord Cutters are STILL getting NAILED.

    AT&T is Still HELL BENT in Pissing OFF Customers. You would think they would have learned their lesson after most of their LAND LINE Customers BAILED. Horrible Customer Service, and CONSTANT RATE HIKES for the same service.

  3. For anyone reading this, I implore you to see a 4k blu ray disk before deciding whether you think 4k and UHD are worth it or not. Any display based on Netflix, satellite, amazon etc will absolutely and completely fail to show the quality increase because the signal has been hugely reduced due to compression. Do NOT listen to any I pinions, see it for yourself if you have a friend with a good setup. If not find a speciality store which has it set up properly (ie not Costco etc). A few brief seconds of a proper demonstration and your jaw will drop, its like nothing you’ve ever seen before and you will immediately want to upgrade, the difference is genuinely as big as vhs to DVD or standard definition to HD.

  4. How much does a 4-K Blu-Ray Player Cost ?
    and how much for a Disc ?
    also, how many are available in 4-K ?
    When will Satellite and Streaming NOT be compressed ?

    • Hey Mike. I’ve seen them for under $200 now, although can be more depending on features etc.
      Disks are $20-30 although lots of 2nd hand stuff available for half that.
      There’s a growing library with more coming out every week. Probably 200ish titles currently, pretty much all big movies have 4k disk releases now. See bluray.com for more info.
      Unlikely that there will ever be non compressed signals, the bandwidth is MASSIVE for proper 4k.

      🙂

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