Sony Ultra — the 4K Streaming Service That Is No More

The scoop on Sony Ultra

Sony 4K Ultra HD Streaming Service screenshot


Sony discontinued new account sign-ups, purchasing, and redeem features from its 4K Ultra Streaming Service on April 18, 2019.

For established members, access to existing account sign-in, order history may still be available, but access to playback options changed on July 26, 2019. 

Details for existing users is available on the Sony Pictures Store and 4K Ultra HD/HDR Streaming Service FAQ Page. Added info is also provided by HD Report.

The remainder of this article is provided as an archive on what Sony Ultra was, what it offered, and how it worked. It will be maintained only as long as there is reader interest. 

Introduction to Sony Ultra

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Sony Electronics offered Sony Ultra as a streaming service that provided owners of select Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs equipped with the Android TV operating platform access to 4K Ultra HD movies. This service also included movies that feature HDR-encoding (provided the TV had HDR decoding built-in).

Sony Ultra joined services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu which provide consumers an increasing amount of streamable video content available with the benefits that 4K resolution (image detail) and HDR-encoding (wider contrast range and brightness) offer.

What You Needed to Get It

Sony Ultra was part of the Sony Pictures Store. It was available as an app on select Sony 4K Ultra HD Android TVs (if it isn't showing as a pre-loaded selection, you can download the app from the Google Play Store if needed) and was also available through the Windows App store for use on PCs installed with the Kaby Lake and above Intel Chipset. An account is required.

How Sony Ultra Worked

Movies accessed from Sony Ultra were stored in and streamed from the Cloud. There was no monthly subscription like Netflix or pay-per-view fee like Vudu, Sony only offered a purchase option with prices as high as $30 for each film.

On one hand, Cloud storage eliminates the need for download time and large hard drive storage capacity on the user end. On the other hand, with Sony's plan, there was no one-time rental, or monthly subscription fee option. If you wanted to watch a 4K UItra HD/HDR movie on Sony Ultra You had to buy it.

However, once purchased, the films could be streamed at any time, with no expiration dates (as long as they remain in the Cloud), and the price of purchase also includes access to Ultraviolet digital copies for playback on portable and mobile devices (minus the 4K resolution and HDR encoding).

Sony 4K Ultra HD Streaming Service Example 3

4K Ultra HD-HDR film titles are cycled in and out on a periodic basis. Some titles that have been or are currently being offered for existing user include Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Peter Rabbit, Concussion, The Night Before, The Walk, Chappie, Captain Philips, as well as remastered films from Sony's library including Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and the original and 2016 versions of Ghostbusters. Title selections are mostly from Sony-owned Studios (Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia, Tri-Star).

As titles became available, consumers that owned previous non-4K/non-hdr digitally-purchased titles, were also able to upgrade to the latest versions at a discounted price.

The Mixed Messages

With the Ultra service, Sony tried to position itself as a competitor with the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format, which requires the purchase of a new player and discs.

On the other hand, Sony also sent out mixed messages, as at the same time they were moving ahead with the streaming end of things, Sony Home Entertainment releases movie and video content on Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs, and Sony Electronics offers 4K Ultra HD models in its Blu-ray/DVD player product line.

Other Viewing Options For Sony's 4K Movies

With Sony Ultra now discontinued and having only been available on a limited number of devices, you can actually access many of its 4K titles (Ghostbusters and Spiderman franchises, Peter Rabbit, and many more) on other services, such as Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu, that are available 4K-enabled devices from Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast (connection to compatible TV required) and select 4K Ultra HD Smart TVs. Unlike the purchase-only option provided by Sony Ultra, other services may offer rental, purchase, or both, providing lower cost and more access options.

The Bottom Line

Although streaming is a convenient way to access video content, paying for a movie that is only accessible via the Cloud, is still owned by the studios. This means that even though you paid for it, and there is supposedly no expiration date, there is no guarantee that your cloud-stored movie will be available forever.

Although the ability to stream movies via a Netflix-style monthly subscription fee is great for casual viewing, for those that want to purchase a movie for their collection, having something physically tangible that you can put on a shelf and enjoy at any time without connection to the internet can be very desirable, especially where the quality 4K streaming is dependent on your broadband access speed (Sony, and other services, usually recommend at least 15mbps, with 20mbps being desirable), monthly data caps, or other internet service provider-based issues.