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YouTube TV testing improved picture quality on some devices

The new codec, VP9, could offer better video resolution on some programs and channels.

The new codec, VP9, could offer better video resolution on some programs and channels.

The YouTube TV program guide shows an episode of "Yellowstone" on the Paramount Network.
The YouTube TV program guide shows an episode of “Yellowstone” on the Paramount Network. (Graphic by The Desk)

YouTube TV has started testing a new video codec that could lead to improved picture quality on some channels and devices, an official with the company confirmed this week.

The affirmation was made on a social media platform by a community manager with the Google-owned streaming service, who said YouTube TV’s engineers were working on various “transcoding changes,” to include a bitrate increase for programming and channels offered with 1080p resolution.

Like other streaming services, YouTube TV compresses its video using different techniques. The compression typically results in a faster and more-stable delivery of high-quality video signals across a wide variety of devices and broadband Internet speeds, but can also result in a poor viewing experience for eagle-eyed viewers who notice compression artifacts and other video blemishes on some higher-end TV sets and devices.

On Thursday, a YouTube TV employee said the company was testing a new video codec called VP9 for delivering high-definition video signals to users. The codec was developed by Google as an alternative to MPEG’s High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and is open source.

YouTube TV has already started testing the codec with some users whose devices support decoding and playing back video content encoded in VP9. Most popular streaming devices, including Roku and Apple TV, support the codec; if tests go well, “we plan to make it more permanent by this summer,” the employee said.

Additionally, YouTube TV is working on a number of other improvements, including addressing bugs associated with its app for Apple TV devices and retooling parts of its multi-view experience that launched to most users during March Madness.

The service is also heavily promoting itself as the new destination for the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket package, which offers football fans access to out-of-market games aired on CBS and Fox stations across the country (in-market games are already available on YouTube TV, but vary depending on location).

NFL Sunday Ticket through YouTube TV costs $350  per season, or $390 when bundled with NFL RedZone. Customers who pre-order the package before June 6 can get a $100 discount off the normal price. Football fans who purchase NFL Sunday Ticket through YouTube TV have to maintain an active subscription to the service’s base programming tier — which costs $73 a month — or they lose access to the package. Alternatively, streamers can subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket through the YouTube app itself, where it costs $450 per season or $490 with NFL RedZone.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).