Because of the cost of it, YouTube TV is sometimes challenged by customers for offering only picture quality. This may vary depending on your location or the specific feed YouTube TV gives you, but if you scan the YouTube TV subreddit, you’ll see picture quality as a common complaint. It wasn’t always like that. Now, the company is doing something about it — for certain content, at least.
in the post To the aforementioned Reddit community yesterday, YouTube TV shared details about recent (and upcoming) improvements to the app. The change that easily got the most attention was this:
Image quality experiments: We’re testing transcoding changes, including a bitrate increase for 1080p live content over the next several weeks. These will target devices that support the VP9 codec with high speed internet connections. If all goes well, we plan to make it permanent by summer. More information to come!
The majority of cable channels on YouTube TV are delivered to the service by networks in 720p, which is as good as customers get. But some channels including TBS and TNT provide a 1080i feed which YouTube TV downscales to 1080p. However, when it comes to streaming, bit rate is a really crucial component to making a picture look good and minimizing the effects of compression, pixelation, blocking, etc. – especially in dark scenes. Increasing the bit rate can lead to a much better picture.
Hulu with Live TV and DirecTV Stream have a huge lead over YouTube TV in picture quality, but when you take into account other YouTube TV benefits, like best-in-class DVR and cleaner UX, the difference isn’t necessarily enough to make a difference. However, if YouTube can level the playing field with these two, it will lead to a significant improvement and possibly less disruption. With a monthly subscription now priced at more than $70 a month, YouTube needs to continue to steadily improve the service if live TV customers are to survive.
I’ve asked YouTube for more details about the upcoming bitrate changes. I’m more curious about whether or not there will be upgrades for the service’s many 720p networks as, as the post says, these improvements will only apply to 1080p content. The Reddit post also outlines several recent bug fixes for the YouTube TV app for the Apple TV, and YouTube says “we’ve reduced the root cause” of audio/video sync issues when surround sound is enabled.
After the March Madness multiplayer feature debuted, the company continues to experiment with its presentation before the start of this year’s NFL season. As soon as that happens, YouTube will start streaming the all-important Sunday Ticket package to football fans willing to spend big for it.
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