4K-UHD Delivery Options Getting Real

By Helen Vince
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Home Entertainment – M-Go, Amazon and DirecTV are all in the news with new 4K-UHD delivery services that are rolling out now or shortly.

Last week, we reported that DirecTV was getting ready to roll out 4K-UHD delivery using it satellites and Genie HD-DVR set top box. But it must be connected to a 4K-ready TV from Samsung. On Nov. 14, 2014, it actually began broadcasting UHD content. The service launched with nearly 20 movies, including “Forrest Gump,” “Amistad” and “Star Trek” (2009).

Amazon said it will launch its 4K-UHD service before the end of the year. However, unlike rival Netflix, it will not charge a premium to access the UHD content. Netflix already offers 4K-UHD streaming for select titles, but Netflix charges $3 more per month for the highest-quality stream. Amazon says Prime Instant Video subscribers will be able to access 4K content at no additional cost – just the same $99 Amazon Prime subscription fee. On the other hand, Amazon recently raised this fee from $79/year, so one could argue this was to help support the development and distribution of original 4K-UHD content.

Amazon is producing all of its original content in 4K-UHD including the popular Transparent and Alpha House series and the recent Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga concert.

Meanwhile, M-Go has launched what it says is the first transactional VOD 4K-UHD service in the US. M-Go (Los Angeles, CA) is a joint venture of DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor, but the company is teaming up with Samsung to enable its subscribers to view 4K-UHD content only on Samsung 4K televisions initially.

M-Go says its service will kick off with a “select number of titles,” but it expects to have 100 movies and TV show episodes available in 4K by the end of 2014. The company says 4K titles will command a rental premium of $1-2 over HD titles; it will cost, on average, $3-5 more to buy 4K titles.

M-Go was launched in 2012 and is widely available for HD content delivery and is even integrated into Roku boxes.

Comcast is also expected to roll out a 4K-UHD service before the end of the year – also on Samsung 4K TVs.

These deals with DirecTV, Comcast and M-Go will clearly make Samsung 4K TVs very attractive for consumers this holiday season. Sony has a 4K service as well, but you have to buy its media player.

Exclusive deals like this may be great for Samsung, but not so great for its competitors and consumers who are limited in their choice (if they want native 4K content). I would expect these deals to be limited in duration as other TV makers, content providers and consumers all will want more choice. Remember how the roll out of 3D TV started with exclusive content on vendor-specific TVs? That did not make many happy, so I hope we will not see a repeat for UHD-TV content. – Chris Chinnock