The new Sony Bravia Core streaming service is a big win for Sony TV fans, bringing tons of movies to some of the best TVs on the market.
Sony's sprawling empire encompasses several industries, from games and consumer tech gadgets to movie studios and music labels. And now, Sony has found a way to showcase its movie library and give more people a reason to buy a Sony TV with the new Bravia Core streaming service.
But this isn't Sony's answer to Netflix, or the second coming of Crackle (which Sony sold its majority stake of back in 2019). It's an exclusive for Sony's new Bravia XR TVs, offering unprecedented streaming quality and a big library of movies and shows that's only offered to owners of the newest models in Sony 2021 TV lineup.
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What is Bravia Core?
Stylized as Bravia CORE (which stands for Centre of Real Entertainment), it's Sony's new video streaming service, which pulls from the Sony Pictures library to provide high quality 4K streaming of both new releases and older movie classics. It's a mix of unlimited streaming for some content and a credit-based selection of other movies.
Sony is touting three main features of the new platform: Lossless 4K streaming at a much higher bitrate than Netflix and other streaming services, complete with HDR and DTS Sound. "The largest IMAX enhanced movie collection," per the new landing page. And lots of content, with both new and classic titles from the Sony Pictures library. Also included are "Studio Access" special features, which has behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, interviews and more.
The service is exclusive to Sony's 2021 TVs, and won't be offered on older Sony smart TVs or other devices. But most importantly, the service will be free to Bravia TV owners. Both the unlimited streaming and credits for premium movies are included with the TV purchase and free sign-up for a Bravia Core account.
Bravia Core app
Sony's streaming service will be accessed through the Bravia Core app, which will come preinstalled on new 2021 Sony TVs. However, you may need to install an updated version of the app, or reinstall the app for any reason, Sony's Google TV means that you will be able to grab the latest updated version from the Google Play store.
What is Pure Stream technology?
Sony's lossless streaming technology is called Pure Stream. The goal is simple: Streaming quality that matches what you'd get from a UHD Blu-ray disc. That means not only 4K resolution, but HDR metadata and immersive sound by DTS.
With streaming bandwidth between 30Mbps and 80Mbps, it can use three to four times as much data as Netflix does – Netflix recommends 25 Mbps for 4K movie streaming. As a result, Sony recommends a minimum internet speed of 43Mbps, and speeds of 115Mbps or higher for true lossless streaming quality.
And, because Sony has full control over both the initial compression and the video processing specifics at the end point, it can tailor the stream to look its best on Sony's new TVs. The result may very well be the best looking streamed movies available, but we'll have to wait and see when we get our first of the new Sony TVs in for review.
What is IMAX Enhanced?
Announced back in late 2018, IMAX Enhanced is one of several media formats and certifications that takes advantage of high-dynamic range and multi-channel audio capabilities on today's smart TVs. Think of it as a competitor to both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, with all of these enhancements rolled into a single format.
Any piece of media that gets the IMAX Enhanced badge – including all of the IMAX titles in the Bravia Core library – is remastered to meet a collection of standards for picture quality, aspect ratio, brightness, color and high-dynamic range.
And in addition to brighter, bolder picture quality, it's literally bigger. The IMAX Enhanced format can handle the 1.90:1 aspect ratio of content shot on IMAX cameras, which will fill more of a standard 16:9 display. This will also result in dramatically reducing letterboxing on some titles, not through pan-and-scan or cropping, but by actually offering a larger picture to begin with.
It also uses DTS Sound with its own optimized version of the DTS:X codec. In simple terms, it offers multi-channel audio for bigger, more immersive sound. And it will take advantage of even the most impressive speaker setups with 7.2.4 support.
Since it's inception, IMAX Enhanced films have been relatively rare, and few TVs support the format – Sony has been one of the few brands to package the capability into its smart TVs. But as part of the Bravia Core service, Sony is touting its IMAX Enhanced collection, saying that there are more than 100 IMAX enhanced titles in the Sony library.
That's pretty awesome for a free service.
What movies are on Bravia Core?
Sony's initial announcements for Bravia Core did not specify any details about the movie selection that will be available, other than to say that the app will offer hundreds of titles. With both new releases and classic films, Bravia Core will have the largest available IMAX Enhanced movie collection.
Sony also mentions that movie credits can be redeemed for use from "a selection of at least 300 movies", suggesting that the library has both 300 premium movies and an additional library for unlimited streaming, which doesn't require any credits.
All titles are offered in the highest available format. For some movies that will mean 720p or 1080p High Definition, but for a lot of titles, that will mean 4K or 4K HDR.
Sony doesn't have a full list of content available online, but the initial marketing materials have showcased the following titles:
Angels & Demons
Bad Boys for Life
Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Greta Gerwig's Little Women
Hotel Transylvania 3
Jumanji: The Next Level
Only The Brave
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Far From Home
The Angry Birds Movie
The DaVinci Code
The Girl in the Spider's Web
Obviously, this lineup isn't complete, and could change significantly at any time. In fact, with Sony promising a mix of movies for both purchase (via credits) and unlimited streaming, it's likely that the lineup for each selection will change and grow as the service matures in the coming months.
Do you have to pay for it?
As of now, Bravia Core is completely free, both for free unlimited streaming and an allotment of credit vouchers that can be redeemed for new release movies.
According to the Sony website, "one movie credit is sufficient to redeem one movie." Once you've purchased a movie using the credit, you can stream that movie as many times as you want for the next 12 months. And if you have more than one eligible Sony TV, you can stream movies from the same Bravia Core account at one time.
Different Sony TV models will get a different number of credits. 10 credits are included with Sony's more premium TV models (specifically the Z9J, A90J, A80CJ and X90CJ) and just 5 movie credits for all other new models (the A80J, X95J, X92, X90J, A80CJ, X91CJ and X80CJ).
As of now, and likely for the next 12-24 months, this is all free. In fact, according to Sony, the app isn't even configured to process payments, so there's no way to be charged for any of this. The only thing new Sony TV owners will need to do is set up a Bravia Core account.
But it may not always stay free. Down in the small print of the Bravia Core page on Sony's website, it describes the current pricing as a promotion that "begins February 24, 2021 and will end February 23, 2022" and that customers need to purchase one of the Bravia XR TVs "by February 23, 2024 to be eligible for the offers of this Promotion."
Why is Sony starting its own streaming service?
The most obvious answer is that Bravia Core is a play to use Sony Pictures' library of content as a lure to sell more new Sony TVs. It offers free content out of the box and showcases some of the best aspects of Sony's TV technology, from picture quality and HDR performance to the lesser-known IMAX Enhanced format.
It may also be an early move in a larger strategy to compete against the likes of Disney, Paramount and Warner Brothers, who have all found some measure of success with their own streaming platforms, like Disney Plus, Paramount Plus and HBO Max.
Sony's also not the first TV manufacturer to launch a streaming app. Roku TVs and streaming devices got The Roku Channel back in 2017, but you can get the service on all sorts of smart TVs and devices, thanks to free apps from the Google Play and Apple App Store.
And Roku's not just streaming cheaply licensed movies and shows; Roku snapped up the rights to all of the content from the short-lived Quibi streaming service and is working on making original shows in the near future. The service also offers sample content from paid sources like Showtime and HBO, and gets a cut for new subscriptions that sign up from the Roku Channel app, in addition to the ad revenue that supports the free service.
For now, Sony's only using the Bravia Core streaming service as a value-add for Bravia TVs, but it could be the first step toward a larger offering, with better-than-average quality and a mix of free and paid content. Only time will tell.