YouTube Testing ‘1080p Premium’ with Its Paid Subscribers

YouTube is experimenting with a higher bitrate 1080p format for Premium subscribers. The enhanced 1080p Premium reportedly provides a better viewing experience. For now, 1080p Premium is only available to a very small group. The existing 1080p HD resolution on YouTube remains unchanged, according to the company. “1080p Premium is an enhanced bitrate version of 1080p which provides more information per pixel that results in a higher quality viewing experience,” explains spokesperson Paul Pennington, clarifying “there are no changes to the existing quality offerings for 1080p (HD) resolution on YouTube.”

“While 1080p describes a video’s resolution, or the number of pixels that make up the image, there are more factors that go into overall video quality. Bitrate and color depth are also important factors and can even lend to good 1080p video looking better than bad 4K footage,” writes The Verge, which says YouTube’s 1080p Premium experiment was detected by some Reddit users who noticed the new option in the quality settings menu.

The compression codec used is also a factor in the quality. What YouTube seems to be doing is using the same codec across the board, but applying higher bitrates to improve picture quality for the Premium format.

“It’s generally accurate to say that video encoded with the same codec but at a higher bitrate will look better,” The Verge observes, adding that “one Reddit user with access to the feature posted a screenshot of the company’s ‘Stats for Nerds’ tool, which shows that the Premium 1080p option ran at around 13 Mbps versus 8 Mbps in the standard mode for the same video.” (Content in 1080p Blu-ray provides a maximum of 40 Mbps.)

“What more could change and move behind a paywall?” asks XDA, which says the YouTube 1080p Premium test is currently for iOS and Android mobile users only. As streamers fight to distinguish their services in an increasingly competitive field, this could be a way to set YouTube apart while generating more revenue.

“This isn’t the first time YouTube has experimented with putting higher-quality video behind the Premium paywall,” notes The Verge, explaining that “last year, the company ran a test that made it so some people weren’t able to access 4K playback unless they were subscribers, a move that garnered a lot of pushback from the community.”

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