Apple expressed interest in 4K video streaming in 2013, leaked Sony documents show

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited June 2015
Documents originating from last year's Sony Pictures data breach reveal Apple requested 4K content for potential digital distribution and on-demand services testing nearly two years ago, suggesting the company has been exploring ultra high-definition streaming for some time.

As divulged by WikiLeaks, a materials access letter (PDF link) from Culver Digital Distribution, an entity associated with Sony Pictures Television, served as a formal agreement for "testing and/or preparing" 4K film and television content for non-exclusive distribution.

The letter dated Sept. 26, 2013, was signed by Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue and Jim Underwood, a former Sony executive who now works at Facebook. Alongside the signed copy were multiple digital drafts dating back to early September 2013. It is unclear when the documents were first made public, though WikiLeaks on Thursday posted a new batch of material from the Sony hack to its website.

That Apple was -- and likely still is -- experimenting with 4K content is unsurprising given the company's status as a leader in digital media distribution. To date, however, Apple has yet to make UHD movies or TV shows available through iTunes or its Apple TV set-top streamer.

Last November, it was speculated that a next-generation Apple TV device would offer support for 4K streaming, but reports in April quashed those rumors. Future Apple TV hardware will likely be capable of outputting UHD content thanks in large part to technological advances borrowed from the iOS device lineup.

The UHD format has existed for well over a decade, but only recently gained popularity after major television manufacturers released reasonably affordable UHDTV sets. Sony happens to be a prominent proponent of 4K and was among the first to field compatible projectors and UHDTVs to consumers.

Without an effective distribution model content selection remains sparse, but the catalog is slowly growing, pushed along by Internet services like Netflix and Amazon.


  • Reply 1 of 18
    jbh0001jbh0001 Posts: 80member
    I would like to see Apple skip 4K UHD and instead come out with a 4K DCI television set for streaming instead. If you are going to do 4K, why chop off or scale down the extra 256 pixels 4K DCI provides?
  • Reply 2 of 18
    Just like Apple: when it's ready.
  • Reply 3 of 18
    jbh0001 wrote: »
    I would like to see Apple skip 4K UHD and instead come out with a 4K DCI television set for streaming instead. If you are going to do 4K, why chop off or scale down the extra 256 pixels 4K DCI provides?

    If the TV industry have two shits about cinema formats, they wouldn't have made HDTV 16:9, but something more like 21:9. DCI monitors (with support for true 24.00p instead of 23.98p) will be a "pro" display for digital film editors, not a consumer product.
  • Reply 4 of 18
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member

    It seems like AppleTV is stuck going nowhere.

  • Reply 5 of 18
    pfisher wrote: »
    It seems like AppleTV is stuck going nowhere.


    They are getting lapped by the likes of Roku and Amazon for pete's sake. smh.
  • Reply 6 of 18

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

    Just like Apple: when it's ready.



    In 2013, Apple begins investigating 4K.


    In 2014, Apple releases 5K iMacs.


    In 2015, Apple reduces the prices of the 5K iMacs.


    This pattern seems a bit familiar...


    In 2011, iPhone 4S gets a BLTE chip.


    In 2012, iPhone 5 gets a BLTE chip.


    In 2013, Apple announces iBeacons at WWDC, iPhone 5S gets a BLTE chip and a fingerprint sensor.


    In 2014, iPhone 6/Plus get a  BLTE chip, fingerprint sensor and Apple Pay is announced, Apple Watch with Force Touch is announced.


    In 2015, other Apple hardware gets Force Touch. Will the next iPhones get Force Touch so Force Touch goes mainstream (with 50+ million iPhones) within the first three days the iPhones are released.


    The question is, "What is the unforeseen WOW factor of Force Touch?"

  • Reply 7 of 18
    pfisher wrote: »
    It seems like AppleTV is stuck going nowhere.

    Hardly. My 3rd Gen AppleTV has gained a lot more content, channels, and HomeKit support since I originally bought it.
  • Reply 8 of 18
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,369member

    Hardly. I think the issue is that widespread adoption of broadband capabilities are limited and you're seeing a lot of push back by media conglomerates regarding net neutrality already. Now multiply the bandwidth requirements by 2-3x and you have very few users with the ability to stream the high quality content and a bunch of Internet providers bulking at the amount of bandwidth it requires. In addition, most users probably aren't even streaming 1080p at this point.


    So it's a timing thing. Just because something is possible, doesn't mean you ought to do it. Apple is waiting for the proper timing and will do it in a way that makes it accessible to the most people. How? Not sure yet but I think they should build out their own network and sidestep traditional Internet providers.

  • Reply 9 of 18
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    My guess is that the 4th gen Apple TV will be physically capable of streaming 4K content, but that it will not initially be supported due to lack of progress in contract negotiation with the content owners.
  • Reply 10 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,043member
    The with 4K streaming is one not eveyone is upgrading their TV they bough in the last 4 yrs, Second is the pipeline to your home. Not everyone has clean pipe, most people are still getting their feed via the sewer pipe which is fill with crap and obstuctions.

    If apple put out a streaming product which was 4k and the pipelines to everyone home was not up to par and their TV were not capabity all you would hear is complaints and law suites that Apple Advertise 4K and most people can not see it without issues.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    Not to be forgotten is Apple's longstanding Mastered For iTunes program, where Apple solicits the highest quality recordings from content producers, rendering it compatible with today's feasible download standards, but making possible higher quality versioning in the future, without any remastering by the provider.

    Some scoff at Apple, pointing at the presence of 4K and admonishing Apple for not providing such content to customers. Apple's reality is that they are providing for a wide range of customers around the world, with differing playback equipment and networking: Apple has to be realistic about file sizes. And, in some cases, contracts may limit the quality that is made available to customers. (Note that TV networks may impose such limits, an onerous example being ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, which is shot in glorious HD through great efforts of the production company, capturing beautiful landscapes from around the world, only to be made available in iTunes in substandard SD quality.)
  • Reply 12 of 18
    mj webmj web Posts: 918member
    1080p has been obsolete since 2014. If Apple wasn't exploring 4K/5K in 2013 it would've been a major blunder and very un-Apple-like. Apple can't afford to upgrade Apple TV without the ability to stream 4K. 4K is here, period!
  • Reply 13 of 18
    joelsaltjoelsalt Posts: 827member

    Originally Posted by MJ Web View Post

    1080p has been obsolete since 2014.


  • Reply 14 of 18

    It's true. As soon as the 2015 Honda came out, my 2014 became obsolete. Now I take the bus.

  • Reply 15 of 18
    My guess is Apple's 4K solution will be called AppleTV Retina, and use H.265. :)
  • Reply 16 of 18
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,787member
    My guess is Apple's 4K solution will be called AppleTV Retina, and use H.265. :)

    I'd wager you are correct.
  • Reply 17 of 18
    bokesbokes Posts: 4member

    Streaming services can't even match the quality of 1080p can they even claim to deliver 4K. The 1080 compressed stream is full of artifacts as it is. Check out scenes shot in darker environments or scenes with fast motion and worse- both. Streaming can't handle it- but Joe/Jane Six just except it.

    BTW- Apple might want to fix the Atv from constantly disconnecting and losing connection with MacBooks before they attempt 4K.

  • Reply 18 of 18
    The sale by anyone of "4K" or "UHDTV" equipment is in my view a consumer fraud.

    There are NO STANDARDS for this format, and existing equipment being sold is unlikely to support the standards when they are finally promulgated.

    Most of the UHD standards being discussed include wider color gamut windows and higher dynamic range (think HDR on your iPhone) for better pictures. More important improvements than more pixels.

    The documents that are really of interest in the Sony Wikileaks document dump are the secret meetings that have been occurring with Dolby Corp and several of the studios. Meetings that many have agreed are illegal collusion by the studios, outside of the legal standards process at the ITU and SMPTE. This sadly is typical of how the process is broken - companies like Dolby are colluding with a handful of players to dominate the market and shut out the competitors.

    When does someone take an interest in this corrupt process, that will end up costing all of us more money?
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