Sony has opened the doors to Video Unlimited 4K, a video download service that will offer more than 100 titles in the eye-popping Ultra HD format for rent or purchase by the end of the year.
The service requires the Sony FMP-X1 4K Ultra HD Media Player, which sells for $699.99 and is only compatible with Sony-made 4K sets.
To kick things off, Sony is promoting several 4K TV/media player bundles, including a 65-inch set that comes with one year of Netflix and Hulu Plus for a cool $5,999.98. A 55-inch Sony 4K TV with a similar bundle runs $4,599.
The Sony 4K media player comes pre-loaded with 10 movies, including The Amazing Spider-Man, That's My Boy, Total Recall 2012, Taxi Driver and The Bridge on the River Kwai, and a collection of 4K video shorts.
Sony said 24-hour 4K movie rentals start at $7.99, with purchases starting at $29.99. Early on, TV shows offered through the 4K store will only be available for purchase. The 4K store is starting off with a library of about 70 Ultra HD films and TV shows, according to GigaOm.
Sony estimates that the media player’s on-board 2 terabyte hard drive can fit about 45 full-length feature films.
Sony is trying to keep bandwidth requirements in check using proprietary compression encoding technology developed by Eye IO, but the new 4K downloading service could wreak havoc on emerging usage-based broadband service policies that charge extra when customers exceed their monthly consumption limits.
Sony may be early to the 4K content party, but it’s not the first.
A smaller firm called ODEMAX launched a private beta of its 4K download service on July 11, ahead of an anticipated commercial launch later this year. ODEMAX, which is concentrating on independent films early on, delivers titles over-the-top to high-capacity Redray Players made by Red Digital Cinema that currently sell for about $1,750 a pop. ODEMAX delivers films in the proprietary .RED format, estimating that the average size of a feature-length film is 9 Gigabytes to 10 GB.