We first heard about Google’s efforts to bring VP9 – and with it, YouTube in 4K – to Smart TVs at CES 2014. The timing was odd because in 2014 no TVs actually supported VP9. That will change in 2015, where Samsung, Sony, LG, Sharp, and Philips TVs will be capable of streaming YouTube in 4K.
YouTube in 4K on your TV
Google have chosen to go its own way in the pursuit of better streaming picture quality. Most industry players are betting on HEVC to replace mpeg4, but Google wants its own VP9 to succeed. So it has decided that YouTube will use VP9 for 4K streaming on TVs.
At last year’s CES 2014, Google proudly announced that several TV manufacturers were supporting VP9 with some carefully written PR. The truth was that a bunch of TV manufacturers were demonstrating it, not implementing it. That will change in 2015 as most 2015 Smart TVs will support both HEVC and VP9.
This also means that for the first time you will be able to stream YouTube in 4K resolution directly to your TV – if you have a fast enough internet connection. There is tons of 4K material on YouTube and thousands of hours are added every week from producers with GoPro, RED and other cameras. We had a chance to see some of the 4K content streamed to TVs at CES 2015, and it surely looks great.
Google has made it mandatory to support both HEVC and VP9 in Android TV devices, which means that you can expect it in all of Sony, Philips, and Sharp Android TVs. It is also available in Android TV boxes such as the Nexus Player and the upcoming Razer Forge TV, but as these devices only support 1080p you will not be able to enjoy 4K. However, VP9 can also improve 1080p quality. Additionally, we found mention of VP9 support at Samsung and LG’s CES booths, but we have no confirmation for Panasonic yet.
Google says that 26 partners will launch VP9-enabled products in 2015.