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New Alliance Aims at Royalty-Free Video Codec

Mari Silbey
9/1/2015
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There's a new video codec alliance in town.

Seven companies – including Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Mozilla and Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) – have formed the new Alliance for Open Media to develop "next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies in the public interest." The group's first project is to create an advanced, royalty-free video codec that is open, scalable and optimized for the web.

The executive director for AOMedia is Microsoft's Gabe Frost, and the Alliance project falls under the auspices of the independent non-profit organization known as the Joint Development Foundation.

This isn't the first step in the media industry's efforts to develop a new and open video compression technology. Mozilla and Cisco are among those companies that have already contributed codec development work to the NetVC workgroup under the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) . Mozilla has shared its Daala technology with the developer community, while Cisco has contributed the code for its Project Thor video codec. (See Cisco Debuts Thor in Video Codec Fight.)

However, the addition of Google in particular to development efforts is significant because of the work the company has already done to create the VP9 codec through its WebM Project. Cisco has in the past said it would welcome the Internet giant's help, but that it was wary of using a codec controlled solely by Google. With Google joining the Alliance for Open Media, that concern should no longer be an issue.

Commenting on Google's decision to join AOMedia, Matt Frost, head of strategy and partnerships for Chrome Media, said in a statement:

"Google launched the WebM Project in 2010 in the belief that web video innovation was too slow and too closed, and that broad collaboration -- in the open -- would fix both problems. The Alliance for Open Media is a big leap forward for these core philosophies, and we're gratified that our AOMedia partners share this vision. Our combined strength, resources and expertise will drive the next generation of web media experiences much further and faster than WebM can do alone."


Want to know more about pay-TV market trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.


The forming of the Alliance is at least partly in response to fears over licensing costs for the High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), and what the costs could do to slow down adoption of 4K and Ultra HD video adoption. An organization called HEVC Advance recently announced the pricing schedule for its HEVC patent pool, and many in the industry have opposed both the high per-unit fees and the fact that there is no cap on payments.

In the wake of the HEVC Advance pricing announcement, Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn even called for a boycott of the program, suggesting companies refuse to pay the licensing fees under the current rate schedule. (See HEVC Advance Could Hurt 4K TV Advancement.)

It's unknown how long it will take for the Alliance to produce an alternative codec option, but the fact that so many big-name companies are participating in the project shows there's a serious commitment to getting it done. The Alliance says it will make more information on the group's efforts available later this year.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
9/2/2015 | 2:11:23 PM
Re: Time is of the essence
"However, the addition of Google in particular to development efforts is significant because of the work the company has already done to create the VP9 codec through its WebM Project."

Google's involvement is also significant because YouTube. Looks like the only major long-form OTT provider missing here is Hulu. Also missing: Facebook and Twitter. But still it's a pretty broad swathe of the industry.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
9/2/2015 | 2:11:23 PM
Re: Time is of the essence
"However, the addition of Google in particular to development efforts is significant because of the work the company has already done to create the VP9 codec through its WebM Project."

Google's involvement is also significant because YouTube. Looks like the only major long-form OTT provider missing here is Hulu. Also missing: Facebook and Twitter. But still it's a pretty broad swathe of the industry.
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
9/2/2015 | 8:26:02 AM
Time is of the essence
I do believe there's an urgency to getting next-gen compression technologies closer to mass deployment. Given that, I'm curious to see how quickly this new Alliance can move.
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