There are probably thousands of 4k TV owners out there who don’t actually watch much 4k content. This is partially because 4k from TV service providers is either non-existent or very limited. There are very few dedicated 4k channels (DirecTV has the most channel options, albeit not always programmed), and On Demand titles are not always offered in 4k.
But there is another way 4k movies can be watched through your service provider, and that is through Movies Anywhere. Several providers including AT&T, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Verizon Fios TV are partners with the digital library platform. That means theoretically any title you own in 4k can be downloaded and watched through a set-top box.
4k content from Movies Anywhere still has some issues with buffering though. Like a lot of On Demand content it has to be downloaded, or at least partially downloaded, before viewing. The high bandwidth demand of 4k content may cause a delay in viewing a movie seamlessly. We recommend starting the download and giving it some time (depending on your internet speed) to get most of the title on to the set-top box or DVR.
However, the results can be very impressive. We downloaded Alien in 4k from DirecTV and the image looks 100% better than any 1080p, 1080i, or 720p presentation of the film. Alien was recently remastered, so the digital movie file served by whatever cloud platform is likely to be only a couple of years old.
To be honest, it was even hard to tell much of a difference between the 4k imagery from Movies Anywhere and the 4k Blu-ray Disc (read a review of Alien here). See the closeup image of Ripley above that demonstrates very smooth video with nice consistent grain and detail. And, see the photo below of the interior of the Nostromo ship that has very nice rendering of color, depth, and detail even in the dark areas. This is good mastering of a 40-year-old movie.
There are many titles you may find through your service provider’s On Demand search function that link to ownership on Movies Anywhere. Look for the little “M” icon to see if available (the sharing with MA will also reveal any titles owned in 1080p. Other titles shared with MA include Elysium, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Bourne Identity, to name a few.
Not all studios are MA partners though (we wish they were). Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount have yet to join the group, but there is certainly no shortage of titles with libraries from Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Sony, and Warner Bros.