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YouTube reveals 4K video streaming plans ahead of CES

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While we’re still skeptical that consumers really care about 4K video, Google is laying down plenty of ground work to make sure it’s prepared for the future.

Today, the media giant’s YouTube revealed to GigaOm that it will be showing off 4K video streaming using its VP9 video codex at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The 4K format is roughly four times higher resolution than regular HD (3,840-by-2,160 pixels vs. 1,920-by-1,080 pixels). But as VentureBeat has pointed out repeatedly, streaming 4K video is exceptionally data intensive (meaning you need a reliable high-speed Internet connection) and requires a 4K-ready television set, which most consumers probably won’t have.

So why is Google bothering with 4K? Well, it could be something that consumers demand in the future, and the company wants to make sure it’s prepared. (The company previously tried to create its own video codex — VP8 — which never quite panned out since many hardware and software makers had little incentive to support it.)

Google’s VP9 — which it’s showing at CES — is a royalty-free video codex that it created as an alternative to the H.265 video codec that many other hardware and software providers already use for 4K video. The VP9 codex should also help deliver HD content faster, speeding up video streaming.

And since there aren’t many people demanding the 4K format, Google and YouTube have a pretty good chance of getting hardware manufacturers to use VP9. YouTube global director of platform partnerships Francisco Varela also revealed that YouTube has partnerships with 19 hardware makers — including LG, Panasonic, Sony, ARM, Intel, Broadcom, and Marvell — to use the VP9.

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