Proprietary 4K Content is a Hubristic Mistake for Samsung and Sony

by on July 30, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – July 30th, 2014

The decision by both Sony and Samsung, two of the largest manufacturers of 4K Ultra HD technology today, to make their respective content rosters proprietary is not only hubristic, it’s also a stupid mistake that could potentially ruin their position in the very format they’re trying to promote.

If there’s one thing that the modern web connected streaming content age has taught a lot of companies the hard way, it’s that you do not close your customers off from the wider market with arbitrary restrictions, not unless you want to see them abandon what you offer whenever they can.

Sony and Samsung are both ignoring this crucial lesson, at least when it comes to making their 4K content accessible across a wide array of platforms. Both companies have invested enormous amounts of money in the 4K UHD format, including spending on TVs, display monitors, cameras and enormous promotional events such as the recent filming of the World Cup in 4K (Done by Sony).

What they obviously want is to see 4K replace conventional 1080 pixel HD as the default high resolution display standard of the next 10 years. A major motivation for this is the companies own profit margins, obviously, since the technology they manufacture in the format costs only slightly more to make than normal HD but can be sold for considerably higher prices 8though competition is pushing these margins down steadily)

Thus, the issue of their deciding to make their respective 4K content completely proprietary is ridiculously short sighted.

The current situation is, unbelievably, that you cannot watch Sony content unless you’re using a Sony 4K TV and can’t access Samsung content unless you have a Samsung TV.

Of course, content from other creators such as Netflix and Amazon is fine on any 4K TV but the fact remains that the special 4K media boxes each of the manufacturers provides for accessing 4K content to their TVs is locked only to a TV from each respective brand.

So for example, if you buy a Sony UHD TV and also go ahead with buying the Streaming content access box known as the FMP-X10, that gives you access to Sony’s “Video Unlimited 4K” library, you can then access Netflix 4K streaming content through the box and also have get your hands on a host of 4K enabled movies such as “American Hustle” and “The Amazing Spiderman”. However, what you can’t do is use the same X10 box with anything but a 4K TV. It doesn’t even work with Sony’s own 4K projectors according to reviews by users!

The exact same silliness applies to Samsung, whose version of the Sony X10 is called the CY-SUC105H and which gives buyers access of Samsung’s “UHD Video Pack”. It’s completely unusable with anything but Samsung’s own 4K TVs.

Of course 4K content shouldn’t be cheap or free, considering what it still costs to make or upscale from its original film format. The same was the case with the earliest versions of normal HD content. However, at least HD wasn’t proprietary and buyers of original HD playback technology were able to use it on any TV brand they wanted to.

In the most basic terms, both companies are telling their customers that they should buy 4K TVs and love 4K technology but limit themselves to just one brand of technology. No customer likes this kind of intrusive restriction and the fallout could be damaging to 4K’s early adoption speed.

What will potentially save the day is the proliferation of widely available 4K content from players outside these two proprietary spheres, releasing their own content over broadband connections that don’t require either Sony’s or Samsung’s silly boxes. With the wide array of 4K TVs available from other manufacturers, there’s no valid reason for either company to pigeonhole their customers. Doing so will likely cost them users.

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