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Disney Is Lone Holdout From Apple's Plan to Sell 4K Movies for $20 (wsj.com) 148

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple has signed new deals to sell movies in ultra high-definition with every major Hollywood studio except the one with which it has long been closest: Walt Disney. At an event Tuesday where he announced the new Apple TV 4K, the tech giant's head of software and services, Eddy Cue, said the device will offer Hollywood movies in the high-resolution format, called either 4K or UHD, for ultra-high definition. Logos for most major studios briefly flashed on a screen behind Mr. Cue, including Time Warner's Warner Bros and Comcast's Universal Pictures. Mr. Cue said those studios' movies will be available in UHD at the same price as high-definition movies. Participating studios have agreed to a maximum price of $19.99 for 4K movies, currently the highest price for HD movies, according to a person with knowledge of the deal making. Apple had pushed studios not to raise film prices above that threshold. The one absence from Apple's list of big studios selling movies in UHD is Disney. It wasn't immediately clear why the company behind Star Wars and Marvel couldn't reach an arrangement with Apple. It currently sells its films in 4K on other digital stores, such as Wal-Mart Stores' Vudu, for $24.99.

Disney Is Lone Holdout From Apple's Plan to Sell 4K Movies for $20

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  • Money (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Disney recently announced they're pulling their content from Netflix soon as part of their own streaming service. I suspect avoiding Apple's deal is part of the same move.

    They want more control over their content so they can charge more. I hope they continue to fracture, fail, then tank. That would be devine justice. Unfortunately, I don't think that'll happen because consumers are tools.

    • I don't think that'll happen because consumers are tools.

      The window where people have kids that are interested in disney content is pretty small. They're trying to fix this with star wars/marvel etc., but it's a lot easier to say no to your teenager than to your 5yo. I think they'll defeat themselves with this, it will just take years.

      • Not all Disney films are targeted to Children.

        Tron
        The Black Hole
        Fantastic Voyage
        20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
        Pirates of the Carribean

        You were probably thinking of movies like The Lion King and Frozen, but even I enjoyed Wreck-it Ralph.
  • Let them fight. The outcome is going to be the same for us no matter who wins. The landscape will be in ruins and we will be left to pick up the pieces.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    $19.99 is a lot of money for a movie, 4K or otherwise. Most of the time, when watching a film or any moving image, you quickly forget whether it's even in colour or black and white, as long as the video is free from artefacts.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Take the movie Dogville as an example. The brain is incredibly forgiving as long as the story and acting is sufficiently engaging to keep it occupied.

      • I didn't like the movie at all, but I agree with the point. Some of my favorite movies are either black and white or would have no advantage to being in anything beyond DVD quality. I think they really need to bring the prices down, especially for "renting" digital movies. Back when movie rental shops were a thing, you could rent a movie for $2 or less. Now, renting a single movie costs $4, and they don't even have to deal with worn out, broken, or lost movies. Bring it down to a dollar a rental, and $5

        • by mentil ( 1748130 )

          Don't forget that movie rental stores had a "new releases" section, which cost more to rent and often had shorter rental periods as well. It's moot because RedBox exists now, and you can rent current releases for $1.50 ($2 for bluray) per day. I agree digital rental and purchase prices are outrageous, particularly for HD streams.

    • by jjbenz ( 581536 )
      I bet if they brought the price of a movie down to $10 they would see a huge increase in sales.
      • Agreed. $25 or even $20 is too much. Take it down to $10 and then I'll seriously consider buying it. I almost never watch a movie twice (most aren't worthy of a second watch), so unless buying is not significantly more money than renting a movie, I'll just stick with renting.
        • Agreed. $25 or even $20 is too much. Take it down to $10 and then I'll seriously consider buying it. I almost never watch a movie twice (most aren't worthy of a second watch), so unless buying is not significantly more money than renting a movie, I'll just stick with renting.

          It is cheaper to buy the movie the week it comes out on disc (about $20 for the BD) than take the family to the theater. If I don't like it or think I won't watch it again, I can sell it to FYE.

  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @10:24AM (#55187643)

    The broadcast industry has effectively standardized on 720 compressed; most people can't tell the difference between DVD and HD and it's already cost them thousands to find that out. My humble opinion is that the hardware manufacturers got addicted to the consumer upgrade cycle and they're pushing 4K. Having made a certain number of industrial films, I can tell you that no-one is screaming to support 4k.

    I suspect that this will drag on so long that the screen makers will jump to 8k before there's much consumer traction.

    The uprezzing of content to four thousand px will take time and money to accomplish. If I were Disney or any other large owner of content, I'd probably want to be conservative as well.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      I can only really notice the difference between 720 and 1080 when I'm explicitely looking for it, but while actually paying attention to the events on screen, I don't.
      I dare bet this goes for most people except for the type of people who can also see the difference of $500 HDMI cables.

      • I was with a friend when we were looking at HDTV several years ago at Best Buy. A Bruce Springsteen concert video was playing on a 56" HDTV. My friend noted that he could see the wood grain on the guitar and then told me the entire history of that guitar. Too much info.
      • Some people are looking at the content, other people are fussing about the format it is presented in. If you have a rather poor aesthetic sense, it is completely reasonable to compensate for it by focusing instead on the resolution.

        The copy of "Les Enfants Du Paradis (children Of Paradise) Marcel Carne (1945)" that I have is slightly less than VGA quality. It's still a masterpiece and worth watching.

        • by dddux ( 3656447 )
          People with smaller dicks like to have bigger stuff. Simple. :) It is not about the quality, it is about dicks, really.
      • I know people that can't tell SD from HD at all. The folks with 'younger eyes' that can probably are watching on a tablet and don't care so long as the stream doesn't require buffering.
    • The broadcast industry has effectively standardized on 720 compressed; most people can't tell the difference between DVD and HD and it's already cost them thousands to find that out

      While I agree that most people don't notice the difference between DVD and HD, HD and 4K, it doesn't cost thousands any more to find out. It's hard to find SD equipment these days and a 1080p TV and a Bluray play will cost about $200 total at Walmart. A cheap 4K TV and an ultra HD Bluray will be more, maybe in the $400 range. Granted the TV will not be a major electronics manufacturer but the Bluray player might be.

      The major problem is that most content isn't 4K these days and most people just upgraded to

    • It's not the cycle the manufacturers got addicted to. It was the first time in a while that the margins were sufficient. And margins were only sufficient because we're down to a few companies making them. The Chinese are going to be entering the market shortly so we'll see those margins dwindle. Which leaves them only one direction to go in if they want to keep making good money. Resolution.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      When I saw this story on the front page I knew instantly that the first comment would be claiming that 4k is pointless.

      Personally it's glaringly obvious to me, but maybe I'm some kind of eagle-eyed mutant. Sadly my super powers don't allow me to shoot lasers out of my eyes.

      • I don't think much of the pushback has to do with the fact that the difference isn't visible. The issue has more to do with whether people are going to try and use a different service at a higher price and less convenience to get 4K versions of Disney content.

    • I agree most people can't tell the difference between resolutions. (Quiz: Two of the major TV networks in the US use 720p cameras, two use 1080i cameras. Based on the TV you've watched, name each network's resolution.)

      However, I also have a projector which throws a 150 inch image (almost floor to ceiling). 1080p looks like crap when enlarged to that size, and I'm anxiously waiting for 4k projectors to come down in price so I can replace my 1080p projector. (Quiz answer: ABC and Fox are 720p, NBC and C
    • by dddux ( 3656447 )
      Hell, I'm still extremely satisfied with 720p and 1080p content. Extremely. 4K? I'd rather invest some money in something more meaningful. New synth or something. It's just getting ridiculous.
  • Buying Movies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @10:41AM (#55187723) Journal

    Here are my questions I ask myself when buying a movie:

    1) Do I Really like the movie?
    2) Am I going to want to watch it a lot?
    3) Can I spread the "cost" of the movie over the number of times I am gonna watch it enough to not wince when I am buying it?

    That's it. And since #2 is dependent upon #1 it is really comes down to how well I like the movie. As the prices go up, the less likely I am going to buy a movie. As it stands now, there are only a couple movies a year at most that I am willing to buy.

    In the meantime, I'll wait for it to show up on Cable. I don't even pay for any of the Premium Movie channels, because quite frankly, they don't offer me enough of the movies I want to watch to justify paying extra each month.

    IMHO the Entertainment industry doesn't really understand there is a lot of competition for entertainment these days. They had better start making more compelling entertainment affordable or it will die a slow horrible death.

    • I just wait for the movies to go on sale for $5 to $10. I haven't paid full price for a video in years.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I haven't been able to afford a video in years.

        FTFY. But don't worry, creimer - once you get your infosec certifications, you'll be making big-boy money and can afford some big-boy toys of your own.

        • FTFY. But don't worry, creimer - once you get your infosec certifications, you'll be making big-boy money and can afford some big-boy toys of your own.

          Like the brand new iPad (5th gen) that I got for no money down through Sprint to replace my five-year-old iPad 2?

    • If they have another lackluster summer in 2018, the content producers might wise up.

      Of course, they might not be able to afford a clue by then.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Same for me. I don't own many on discs because I didn't rewatch them like I used to due to being older with lack of free time (struggling with the new releases and unseen old ones). I do rewatch them like from higher quality like from film, SD, VHS tapes, LD, DVD, HD, BR, etc.

    • by dddux ( 3656447 )
      Spot on my friend! They should get worried about the content, not its resolution! I can really like a 480p film, but OTOH a 1080p film can make me say "WTF have I DL-ed this POS at all???"
  • The question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <voyager529@nosPaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @10:49AM (#55187775)

    It's an interesting question. I'm wagering that most parents aren't going to be willing to spend more for a 4K version of Moana when their kids are probably just as happy with the SD version, to be frank. As long as Disney sells the HD versions for $20 a pop, I'm sure that won't be a big loss. On the other hand, the Marvel and Star Wars properties lend themselves to 4K releases, but wouldn't enthusiasts prefer Blu-Ray discs to digital files at that point? I mean, assuming 60mbit download speeds (the standard tier from my cable company), it's nearly two hours to download a 50GB file, more than enough time for lots of people to drive to Target, buy a Blu-Ray for the sameish price as Disney wants for a 4K download, some popcorn, and a case of beer, and come home. Also, 50GB movies add up pretty quickly; it would take less than a dozen to fill up the hard disks for most standard Mac configurations. iTunes is required still due to the DRM (ruling out the use of Plex or other streaming server solutions), so a library of any consequence is going to require an external hard disk or three connected to a desktop with iTunes running. "Play via streaming!" seems obvious, but iTunes doesn't seem to allow that (admittedly, the Apple TV might). Even if it did, the bandwidth requirements for 4K streaming are rather high, making repeated viewings an uphill battle for Apple justify using as an avenue of first resort without Netflix's levels of peering. Now, the storage could be eased obviously, if the Apple 4K files are smaller than the selection I came across on TPB, but if Apple compresses more than a little bit, the resolution improvement becomes a tradeoff of higher compression, and again starts to favor Blu-Ray. For those who want to view a film on impulse, I would imagine that the HD releases are 'good enough'.

    tl;dr: Disney content seems to me like something that would be 'good enough' in 1080p for most people. Between the transfer times and storage requirements for 4K iTunes downloads that aren't too heavily compressed to cease to justify the higher resolution, Blu-Ray probably still serves that niche better than downloads.

    • This would all be a lot simpler (and friendlier to the consumer) if the studios offered upgrade pricing like the software industry does. So you could buy the HD version of the movie today. But in the future when you had a 4k projector which fills the entire living room wall and 1080p looks like crap, you could simply pay the price differential between HD and 4k version to upgrade. After all, you've already paid for a license for the movie. All you want to buy are the extra pixels, not an entirely new mo
    • I am assuming here that these would be sold when movie is in the theater?
    • Why would I want to drive to the store to buy a digital file on a disc (which might not even be in stock) instead of downloading it or streaming it from the comfort of my home? I already have beer and popcorn kernels at home.

      Yes it pushes the limits of current home internet in many US locales for streaming, but that's a solvable problem with better home internet or pre-downloading.

      • Why would I want to drive to the store to buy a digital file on a disc (which might not even be in stock) instead of downloading it or streaming it from the comfort of my home? I already have beer and popcorn kernels at home.

        Yes it pushes the limits of current home internet in many US locales for streaming, but that's a solvable problem with better home internet or pre-downloading.

        1. I'm not saying that there are exactly zero people who would find this useful. I'm saying that the market of people for whom are those who meet these qualifiers:

        • Have a device capable of playing back 4K video at a level where there is a visible quality improvement over 1080p,
        • Have a 100mbit internet plan,
        • Care specifically about watching a film in 4K rather than 1080p
        • In the case of the Disney films specifically, be willing to pay more than $20 for the 4K version,
        • In the case of the Disney films specifically
    • Having made a choice between renting a SD version or HD version of a movie I can honestly say this: At the end of the movie I never thought "Damn, wish I saw that in HD"
  • It wasn't immediately clear why the company behind Star Wars and Marvel couldn't reach an arrangement with Apple. It currently sells its films in 4K on other digital stores, such as Wal-Mart Stores' Vudu, for $24.99.,

    Considering that Disney has announced plans to create their own streaming service and will withdraw from Netflix by 2019 [slashdot.org], I would say it is quite clear. Disney will keep the contracts it has in place with existing streaming companies but will not enter into new contracts as it launches its own service. It probably will not renew any of the current contracts as well.

  • disney cinemagic coming to basic cable $3/sub must be in the basic pack with espn.

  • apple 30% cut is to high for the mouse!

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @11:21AM (#55187967)

    Ultra 4k blu-rays run up to 80mbit with ~50 sustained being typical depending on content. That's a 5x difference in bandwidth.

    There really needs to be a coherent metric for communicating quality to customers because right now anyone can claim 4k resolution and push it at any bit rate / quality they damn well please.

    "4k" is meaningless. Resolution is irrelevant. Nobody can tell the difference between 2160p and 1080p unless standing up comically close to a jumbotron. Demand for improved quality is really customers not appreciating blocking and banding caused by content delivery being unwilling or unable to deliver sufficient bandwidth to support the lies they are selling.

    • "4k" is meaningless. Resolution is irrelevant.

      This. I have a 1080p monitor (well actually 1920x1200) and yet I select 4k when I watch a youtube video for a very obvious improvement in visual quality.

  • by Flytrap ( 939609 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @11:23AM (#55187987)

    Isn't Laurene Powell (Steve Jobs' wife) a significant Disney shareholder... she should pick up the phone and call somebody.

    In the old days, Steve would have picked up the phone and called Bob Igor (current Disney CEO) to remind him what happened to Michael Eisner, the last Disney CEO who tried to stand up to him.

    For those who do not remember, Eisner was fired when it looked like Jobs (then CEO of Pixar) and John Lasseter (CCO) were going to take their Pixar ball and go and play with someone else (Warner Bros); and Igor was brought in with one task: Do not lose Pixar. Disney's subsequent acquisition of Pixar made Jobs the largest single shareholder of Disney and gave him a seat on its board of directors - which is presumably now filled by Powell.

    Anyway... Tim Cook, at Apple, should call Powell and ask her to call Igor, at Disney, and have a gentle conversation about the difficulty he might have in a few months when he submits his new streaming app for approval for the Apple iOS and tvOS app stores.

  • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @12:02PM (#55188275)

    Back in the 70's Disney refused to license out their cartoons at a reasonable rate. Instead they produced their own TV program that would once a week air one or two of them. Meanwhile their competitors at Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barberra were tickled pink to take a nickel from anyone who wanted to air their old library.

    The result was that Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barberra cartoons were constantly playing during "kid time" (after school on weekdays and Saturday mornings). All kinds of new content was being created too, as fast as it could be shoveled out. Meanwhile hardly anyone was familiar with the Disney cartoon stable, because they hardly ever saw it. Entire generations of viewers can describe Bugs Bunny cartoons in minute detail, and couldn't care less about Mickey Mouse.

    They almost entirely destroyed their brand by being so tight-fisted. So now they have to go buy properties that were sensible about trying to maximize exposure (eg: Marvel, Star Wars), but it seems they still haven't learned their lesson.

  • by Kiwikwi ( 2734467 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2017 @03:03PM (#55190095)

    To this day, most movies are only mastered in 2K, meaning that with "4K" you'll just be paying for digitally upscaled video without any added detail.

    E.g. look at the IMDb box-office top 10 [imdb.com] (as a proxy for new, popular movies), then check the Technical Specs for each movie. For the vast majority of movies, you'll see:

    Cinematographic Process Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format)

    Only two movies on the current top 10 were mastered in 4K: The Hitman's Bodyguard and Logan Lucky. Even Spider-Man: Homecoming, which Apple used when announcing the 4K movie initiative is only mastered in 2K! This is ridiculous.

    Sure, with the 4K movies you'll probably also get higher bandwidth, which directly translates to higher quality... but that property is completely separate from resolution, and upscaling to 4K will actually give slightly worse fidelity than if the same bandwidth was used to compress the original 2K video.

  • Disney has always been greedy to the point of being arrogant.

    Their DVDs on the shelves were always higher priced and seldom discounted. $20 is too high for a children's movie.

    Disney lobbied heavily and won passage of the "Mickey Mouse" copyright extension law that prevented Steamboat Willy and Mickey Mouse from going into public domain.

    Disney's early films exploited public domain in which they mined stories no longer under copyright to make their own movies.

    When traveling I had watched the Disn
  • Among the copyright holders and distributors (Apple, Disney, NBC/Comcast, etc.) mutual greed assures that no single site will offer the convenience, freedom from digital restrictions management, and respect for watching in privacy that sharing sites like The Pirate Bay do.

    Among customers (particularly those on /.) who should know better than to do business with Disney: Doing business with Disney means feeding the organization that treats you badly on copyright law (another retroactive copyright term extensi

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