Apple was licensing Sony’s 4K content as early as 2013

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According to a document leaked as part of WikiLeaks’ latest dump of information form the Sony Pictures hack, Apple has been testing and licensing 4K content from Sony since as early as 2013. The document is signed by Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, and former Sony Pictures exec Jim Underwood (via AppleInsider)

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The letter that was leaked is from Sony’s Culver Distribution company, located in Culver City, California. The letter reveals that in 2013, Apple requested and was granted the rights to some 4K content from Sony.

As part of the agreement, Apple has only been allowed to use the materials for testing and preparing them for “exhibition on a video-on-demand and digital home entertainment basis.” This means that as part of this specific agreement, Apple can not sell or offer any Sony 4K content via iTunes, but rather can only test Sony 4K content for the possibility of potentially offering it at some point in the future. Another contract would be required for Apple to offer 4K Sony content via the iTunes Store.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the next generation Apple TV will not carry support for 4K content, which likely means that Apple will not offer the content via the iTunes Store at any point in the near future. The fact that Apple has been testing it for more than two years, however, shows that its decision to forgo 4K support was not an impulsive move by any stretch of the imagination.

Apple was originally expected to unveil a refreshed Apple TV at WWDC 2015 last week, but it was cut from the presentation at the last-minute. It will likely now be unveiled later this year.

Some notable points from the document are below:

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  1. I would imagine this was for testing Final Cut Pro on the new Mac Pro, rather than AppleTV related. I hope I’m wrong though, 4K AppleTV really should be a must, it will help drive adoption of the standard and put Apple in a strong position in the living room… unlike last time around having to watch 720p content while everyone else was enjoying 1080p

    • While it would be nice, history shows that Apple only REALLY succeed with wearable or portable devices. The iPhone, iPad, iPod, Macbook Air & eventually the Apple Watch all sell shed loads. The iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and Apple TV don’t because unless you call into someone’s house they may as well not exist.

      A 4K AppleTV would be cost prohibitive and would barely dent the market I reckon. Just my opinion though :)

    • NQZ (@surgesoda) - 8 years ago

      Well, the contract specifically mentions video-on-demand service testing, which doesn’t sound like anything FCP related to me. I for one hope the next AppleTV *does* support 4K — it’s been out for quite some time now (4K TVs) and if Apple were to come out and provide support, then they could lead the charge for more people to adopt; I think that’s the Apple most of us know and remember — the leaders, the innovators. I think it would be a mistake to *not* include 4K support on the next AppleTV.

  2. irelandjnr - 8 years ago

    Plasma TVs are very forgiving of lower resolution content. I’ve seen 420p stuff look absolutely good enough. And 1080p stuff is well good enough for me—it looks wonderful. I don’t need an higher res at all. The single biggest need regarding downloaded movies is the price. If the studios charged $4.99 for all new release movies my gut feeling is they’d make a lot more money in aggregate. People pirate movies now because they are unwilling to pay the extortionate prices currently charged. It’s contrary to popular belief in the studio world, those same people wouldn’t pay if they couldn’t steal it. They’d just miss it. Charging $4.99 makes sense. People would still pirate, but a lot of young families worldwide would pony up the $4.99 to buy and those $4.99s add up.

    • NQZ (@surgesoda) - 8 years ago

      I think that the amount of piracy that goes on gets heavily exaggerated, but also I don’t think it’s price on it’s own that drives piracy — I think most people who pirate do so because the content is not legally available for purchase where they live; case in point, Game Of Thrones — HBO Go is great and all, but it’s only available for the USA; and in the beginning, it was only available to Apple TV users! If they’re trying to curb piracy with that, they need to go back to the drawing board…I know for a fact almost everyone who downloads GoT are NOT from the USA and they do so because there is simply no way to get their fix legally where they live.

  3. willo (@mozfart) - 8 years ago

    I have been watching 4K for over a year. I got a 65″ 4K TV. Apple TV has to support 4K. It is a huge leap from 1080P. It looks amazing. Netflix is constantly adding 4K content. I also got a Mac Mini connected with in UHD resolution and photos and slideshows look amazing as well.

    I am sure they are going 4K/UHD. It´s miles ahead of 1080P, and anyone who claim otherwise has never seen proper 4k/UHD content on a decent TV.

  4. Paul Van Obberghen - 8 years ago

    As I recall correctly, it as been said that the Apple TV wouldn’t be _streaming_ 4K content. This does not mean that it would not support 4K at all. If it only was for displaying on a 4K TV set or PJ the gorgeous pictures we are taking with our iPhones, and even the videos that most recent SLRC are taking and that we can easily edit on our Macs. Not to mention that a possible higher resolution camera on the next iPhone could be 4K capable, as many smartphones are nowadays (at 8MP current iPhone is just shy of 4K). This only would justify 4K.

    Also, if 4K content becomes available on the iTunes Store, it does not need to be “streamed” in real time. There may be a need to download at least a part of it to start watching the movie, depending on the available bandwith. And what about games? Granted: all this would need quite a powerfull processor and alot of memory, but nothing technologicaly impossible for Apple. Though staying at 100$ or so would be a challenge.

    One can always say 1080p is “good enough”, but so was people saying about SD, and about black’n’white before that. Not supporting 4K at all in the next Apple TV would seem odd from Apple, especially now that they have a 5K iMac, and also because 4K TV sets are now becoming more affordable.

    If this was the case, I wonder how Apple will justify the lack of 4K support on a new Apple TV…

    • Nycko Heimberg - 8 years ago

      To look at a Movie 4k about 27 ” is not pleasant too small
      Lenco 4K TV 50 ” $800
      Apple is late on many points at present….
      The Fans do not see…. They buy overtaken products

  5. Steve Grenier - 8 years ago

    When H265 goes mainstream we will see 4K content in iTunes and the AppleTV. I doubt it will occur before. H264 4K files are just too damn big for most people.


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Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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