Promises, Promises

Sony Launches Film Streaming Service Bravia CORE

Targeted at consumers thinking of buying a top Sony TV in 2021 — but is it premium enough?

Offering content in order to increase the value of tech products is not that common because it’s usually not that effective an approach — but if anyone can pull this off, it’s probably Sony. (Image credit: Sony)

Following up on the announcement it made during CES 2021 in January, Sony is launching its Bravia CORE streaming service in more than 50 countries. This service is exclusively created for owners of the best TV models the Japanese giant will be releasing this year — starting with its best OLED model, the A90J, which has just been made available — and will not be competing with the likes of Disney Plus or HBO Max. It is intended to work as an extra incentive for consumers to go for a Sony Bravia XR model in 2021 but also as a practical demonstration of what its Pure Stream technology can do for audiovisual quality through streaming — an issue that demanding viewers have been having for a long time with the most popular service of this kind, Netflix.

Bravia CORE promises streaming speeds that vary between 30 and 80 (!) Mbps, depending on the movie. The more Mbps a film or TV show needs in order to be streamed properly, the better the picture and sound quality are at a given resolution (1080p or 4K). Up until now, Netflix’s streaming bitrate would top at 17 Mbps, while Disney Plus offers movies or TV shows exceeding 30 Mbps. The best audiovisual streaming quality on the market today is actually offered by Apple TV Plus in select films and shows (just shy of 45 Mbps), so it will be interesting to see how close to the 80 Mbps threshold most Bravia CORE films come in real-life testing.

Sony’s Pure Stream promises content bitrates up to four times higher than the ones offered by Netflix in films — but high bitrates are not everything when talking about audiovisual quality. (Image credit: Sony)

As is the case with every other content provider, in order for these high bitrates to be fully utilized, consumers will actually have to rely on even faster network connections. “To access Pure Stream at 30 Mbps, you must have a minimum Internet speed of 43 Mbps. To access the highest quality Pure Stream available at 80 Mbps you must have a minimum Internet speed of 115 Mbps”, Sony notes. The requirements for top A/V quality through Bravia CORE not only exceed the current global average (97.5 Mbps at the time of writing) but also by far the speeds offered to most consumers in many countries. Sony does seem to be making a future investment here, but then again the Bravia XR models it’s promoting are not the most affordable TV sets in their respective categories anyway. This is a premium service for demanding consumers.

There is nothing keeping Sony from offering Bravia CORE to more consumers later on, of course: all a device would need in order to make the most of Pure Stream is a Gigabit Ethernet port (or a really good wireless connection) plus a powerful enough chipset to decode 4K/HDR material in very high bitrates. A PlayStation5, for instance, would be more than capable of offering that and, with sales of more than 6 million worldwide already, it might be Sony’s next logical step to enable Pure Stream support through that with a firmware update at some point. Maybe not in 2021 — as Bravia CORE needs to work as an added benefit of buying a Bravia XR this year — but a move like that in 2022 would not be out of the question.

The first hi-end TV offering access to Bravia CORE is the OLED-based A90J, but there’s nothing keeping Sony from updating e.g. the PS5 to offer the same kind of access in the future. (Image credit: Sony)

It’s worth noting, though, that even though Bravia CORE will strive to establish itself as a premium streaming option when it comes to audiovisual quality of movies and shows, it will still not necessarily be the best one available on the market. Pure Stream does not yet support Dolby Vision, just the basic HDR10 profile for high dynamic range content. Nor does it support DTS:X sound, just the typical DTS-level of sound quality (and IMAX Enhanced compatibility does not necessarily mean that most movies will offer better sound). The omission of Dolby Atmos sound support is also too serious to ignore.

At the same time — while there is no point arguing about streaming services’ immediacy and ease of use — UltraHD Blu-ray discs do offer even better audiovisual quality for movies, supporting Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and bitrates in excess of 100 Mbps at times. It will be interesting to see, then, how Sony plans to promote Bravia CORE given the fact that consumers looking into buying these quite expensive Bravia XR TVs are not just demanding but also well-informed and probably tech-savvy enough to spot the weaknesses of its service. A step in the right direction for all streaming services Bravia CORE it may be, but whether it will help Sony’s TV lineup this year remains to be seen.

Veteran journalist, project kickstarter, tech nut, cynical gamer, music addict, movie maniac. Will work for money, fame and bandwidth. More on farkonas.com.

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