Apple & Studios Arguing Over 4K VOD

One of the most obvious and likely places that Premium VOD is going to show up first will be on Apple’s iTunes service. The tech giant has the infrastructure and resources in place already, it’s now mostly questions of legality, compensation and other practical measures.

Separate to that issue though, The Wall Street Journal (via The Verge) is reporting that Apple is butting heads with the studios over another issue – 4K HDR content. Apple is reportedly set to unveil the next generation of its Apple TV on September 12th, a media set top box capable of streaming HDR and 4K content.

While 4K streaming is already available on other set top boxes like Roku and Fire via SVOD services such as Netflix, Vudu and Amazon, those are all ‘adaptive streaming’ services – the quality of the video dependent entirely on your online connection.

On the other hand Apple TV’s Movies and TV rentals and purchases, like YouTube, are progressive downloads. This means it is encoded at higher rates and offers the best picture quality consistently (at the cost of potential buffering times on slow connections). Once 4K is available, 4K films and shows on iTunes should theoretically prove the best quality versions you’ll get outside of a 4K Blu-ray.

However, there’s an issue in regards to pricing. Apple currently offers films to buy (Digital HD) for $14.99-$19.99 and wants to offer the 4K versions at the $19.99 price point. The studios are pushing back though, wanting to add a $5-10 surcharge on top of that. Apple has said they want to offer lower prices because they believe it will entice more customers and help generate more profits in the long term.

Whether the studios will acquiesce before the September 12th unveiling? We’ll see.