Sony has announced that, together with their Video Unlimited 4K service which allows subscribers to download the full 4K versions of movies that are compressed using the H.265 codec to save on space, subscribers will be able to watch and view that same content on other Sony devices linked to their Sony Entertainment Network account.
The change to the DRM restrictions apply only to first-party shows, movies and other video content that Sony themselves published on to the service. This would allow you to download any content you’ve paid for on multiple devices, which means that the latest movies produced by Sony will be available to view on your PS3, PS4, Vita, Xperia phones and tablets and laptops and the very weird FMP-X1 4K media player being made by the company.
This seems to be part of a plan by Sony to move towards vertically integrating the services offered on their devices, much like Apple already does with iTunes. Previously you had to re-purchase content for your individual devices and the price would change for varying hardware. Now you pay one price and just like iTunes, the media can be downloaded and watched on multiple devices, even possibly at the same time.
This would mean that pricing for the content will be differentiated by resolution. Perhaps this may work as a separate license for 720p, 1080p and UltraHD 4K content. Hosting the full 4K movies is a tremendous expense and delivering them over the internet is an even bigger challenge. It may end up that Sony puts up a reasonable price for the 4K version, but allows consumers the choice of downloading lower fidelity versions so as to maximise profits.
As part of the Big Six movie studios in Hollywood, Sony Pictures commands a lot of respect and has a lot of influence over policy changes for other studios. Should the change to their DRM make their Video Unlimited service more of a commercial success, we could see other studios like Universal looking at loosening up their restrictions as well to make early adopters more comfortable with the insane amount of money they need to drop to make their home theatre 4K compatible.
But that isn’t the end of it. Sony may also make the same change for their Music Unlimited service, which would put them in direct contention with Apple and other services like Hulu and Netflix. Buy your music from their store and have it available on all your devices later, including a kickass gaming console – that would make even the mighty Microsoft quake in its boots.