YouTube’s Ultra HD Strategy Could Spark Battle Over 4K Video-Delivery Tech
Internet’s biggest video provider to stage 4K demos at CES with Google-owned VP9 codec with LG, Panasonic and Sony
Variety.com reports that YouTube, aiming to improve current HD video delivery and chart a course to Ultra HD, has lined up 19 consumer-electronics partners to support a Google-owned video compression technology.
The move could set the stage for an industry fight over which next-generation codec becomes the prevailing way to stream Ultra HD video, also referred to as 4K, which offers four times the resolution of current high-def but also consumes more bandwidth.
For its push into 4K video, YouTube is adopting VP9, an open-source codec maintained under the Google-backed WebM initiative. In doing so, YouTube — which carries clout as the Internet’s No. 1 video site by a long shot — is spurning the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) specification, which has been considered the def facto technology among many device manufacturers, distributors and content owners.
Netflix, for example, is using HEVC to stream “House of Cards” season 2 in Ultra HD video, to compatible 4K TV sets of yet-to-be-announced partners.
Like HEVC, VP9 is designed to be twice as efficient as the current most widely used codec for Internet video, MPEG-4 / H.264 — roughly cutting bandwidth requirements in half to deliver comparable HD quality. But one key difference is the Google-controlled VP9 codec offers royalty-free use whereas HEVC requires patent licensing agreements to support.