After over a year of anticipation, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is finally a reality.The new format will launch in March with players available from Panasonic and Samsung; although this first wave of disc-spinners won't support Dolby Vision. The necessary chip-set won't be available until the summer, so Panasonic and Samsung clearly decided to launch without it, rather than delay any longer. No doubt other manufacturers will launch players of their own in the autumn and we have already heard that Oppo is working on a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray machine of their own. At present LG and Sony appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to UHD Blu-ray, whilst Philips are only releasing a player in the States.
However, it's no good having a player if you don't have any discs to watch and so far Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Lionsgate have announced 4K Blu-ray discs. The initial titles aren't fantastic but new formats rarely start with big films because the studios don't want to see their blockbuster movies only selling a few thousand discs. However discs drive player sales and players drive disc sales, so it's a bit of a 'chicken and egg' situation. At least some of the titles are now appearing on Amazon US for pre-order, although that does bring up the thorny subject of prices.
The Sony Pictures releases are especially expensive when you consider the titles - we really can't see anyone spending $35.99 on Smurfs 2 or $32.39 on Pineapple Express. 20th Century Fox at least appear to be pricing their discs so that they actually might sell some and Amazon have The Martian, Life of Pi and Fantastic Four available for a more reasonable $29.99. So what will 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs cost in the UK? Well based upon the US numbers, it's seems reasonable to assume pricing anywhere between £19.99 and £29.99. Is that too high or are people prepared to pay a premium price for a premium product?
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