Hulu joins Netflix, Amazon to promote royalty-free AOMedia Video codec, AV1

Hulu is now a member of the Alliance for Open Media. (Hulu)

Hulu announced that it has joined the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), a nonprofit organization working to promote the AOMedia Video codec, AV1, the alliance’s first video compression standard.

AV1 “strives to deliver improved compression efficiency over the current cutting-edge video compression standards HEVC/H.265 and VP9, in addition to providing the industry with an open source, royalty-free, interoperable video format,” wrote Hulu CTO Tian Lim on the company blog in explaining Hulu’s decision to join the alliance.

“As a member of AOMedia, Hulu joins other streaming media industry leaders in pursuit of a common goal—to accelerate development and facilitate friction-free adoption of new media technologies that benefit the streaming media industry and our viewers,” Lim added.

AOMedia, which was created to develop open-source codecs that are royalty-free as an alternative to HEVC, has launched a new video project to promote active development of an open-source video codec. Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel and Netflix are among the major supporters of AOMedia.

“Hulu’s addition to the Alliance is no small matter. Ultimately, having the top three OTT SVOD services on board will provide strong momentum for the standards produced by the consortium,” noted Parks Associates analyst Brett Sappington. “The royalty-free aspect of AOMedia standards for technologies like video codecs is of particular interest to distributors like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. As their video delivery volumes increase on a global scale, royalty-based licensing costs quickly become substantial.”

However, Sappington noted that no major broadcaster or media production company has signed on to AOMedia yet. Further, he noted that any deviation from a standard like AV1 could throw the entire space further into fragmentation.

“Individual companies or industry groups have introduced new standards designed to eliminate the fragmentation in media formats that exists today. Unfortunately, most have added to the fragmentation rather than simplifying an already complex challenge. If one major content service or CE manufacturer opts to take a different approach, it forces others within the delivery chain to either abandon support for a sizeable consumer group or to support all of the media format options that could apply,” Sappington added.

Nonetheless, Ovum analyst Tony Gunnarsson pointed out that with the addition of Hulu, AOMedia now commands a dominant position among SVOD providers. Specifically, he counted Hulu’s 20 million paying subscribers alongside the 53 million paying customers that Netflix counts in the United States. Amazon Prime boasts some 70 million subscribers, out of which Ovum believes 40 million are active Amazon Video viewers, Gunnarsson added.