Sony aims to take 4K mainstream with US$4,999 TV, media player, download service

The company also announced a new 4K media player and distribution service, but they only work with Sony products

Sony will soon launch 4K TVs far smaller and cheaper than existing models, along with a 4K media player and download service, all aimed at bringing the next-generation TV format into the mainstream.

The company said Monday it will launch a 55-inch 4K TV set in its XBR line for US$4,999, to go on sale from April 21 in the U.S. That is about 20 percent the cost of its 84-inch model released earlier this year for $24,999. The company had no comment about launches in other regions.

Sony will also try to alleviate a major barrier to adoption of the new format: a scarcity of content. The company said that in the summer of this year it will launch a new media player, which will come pre-installed with movies in 4K format including The Amazing Spider-Man, Taxi Driver and Total Recall.

Sony said it will also launch a fee-based download service for 4K movies that will work with the new media player, to go live in the fall of this year. The company has yet to release more details about the player and service, but has made it clear they are to be used together in a Sony-only environment.

"The 4K media player and download service will only work with a Sony 4K TV," said company spokesman Keizo Masuda in Tokyo.

The media player will cost US$699. A 65-inch version of the XBR TV will cost US$6,999.

The prices are far below not only Sony's previous offerings but also those of other companies. Samsung offers an 85-inch 4K TV for $39,999, while LG sells an 84-inch model for $19,999.

Sony was once dominant in TVs but has suffered deep and prolonged losses in the category for much of the LCD TV era. The company is attempting to leverage its assets to make a comeback in 4K. In addition to be a household brand name in consumer electronics, Sony is the only major manufacturer with extensive movie holdings, including the Spider-Man and 007 franchises.

Sony is also a major seller of recording cameras and projectors for use in movie theaters, areas where it has also been pushing 4K. Also on Monday, the company announced an extended version of its XAVC format for 4K and high-definition video, as well as a 4K monitor for business use and a new professional grade camera for shooting 4K video.

4K, also known as "Ultra HD," is a format that for consumer goods usually represents a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, with the name referring to the horizontal resolution. Video shot in 4K has about four times the pixels of most HD video.

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