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YouTube 1080p Premium is for nerds… and maybe NFL fans

Published Feb 24th, 2023 11:54AM EST
YouTube on iPhone
Image: Azamat E

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YouTube is adding better video quality options to YouTube Premium. Most people will never even notice the difference.

This week, some users noticed a new video quality option on YouTube’s mobile app. While the 1080p showed up as usual, a new “1080p Premium” option also popped up. Some users quickly worried that the company might lock 1080p video quality behind its YouTube Premium subscription service, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Instead, 1080p Premium will be a brand new video quality option for those who pay for YouTube Premium.

In a statement to The Verge, Paul Pennington, a spokesperson for the company, says that the video quality option is currently only available to “a small group of YouTube Premium subscribers.” So, it appears the company is currently testing the feature with the intent to roll it out to all subscribers over time.

So, what’s the point? Pennington says that 1080p Premium is “an enhanced bitrate version of 1080p.”

1080p Premium is an enhanced bitrate version of 1080p which provides more information per pixel that results in a higher quality viewing experience…there are no changes to the existing quality offerings for 1080p (HD) resolution on YouTube.”

Who will notice the difference?

While many people think that resolution alone determines picture quality, a number of other factors like bitrate and color depth can determine the experience you have when viewing something like a movie or television show. The lower the bitrate, the less information per pixel is provided which can cause poor picture quality, even at higher resolutions.

Higher bitrate, in turn, provides more information per pixel which gives devices more to work with to provide excellent picture quality and a more accurate representation of what a television or phone is trying to display.

There are a number of streaming services that provide higher bitrates than others. According to testing by SamaGame, Apple TV+ currently offers the highest bitrate on its streams at up to 26MB. Disney+ and Netflix follow each with around 16MB. Some niche streaming services, like Sony’s BRAVIA CORE, offers streaming bitrates up to 80MB, which the company says offers more “detail, color and contrast” and is comparable to 4K UHD Blu-rays.

I’ve used Sony BRAVIA CORE and can say that the picture is bananas. But I also purchased a Sony A80J OLED television because I worked at Best Buy for five years and became obsessed with the upgrades in picture quality that came with televisions like that.

YouTube 1080 Premium reminds me of Apple Music’s Lossless quality that the company rolled out a while ago. It’s part of the company’s paid music streaming service, offered to subscribers at no additional cost, and increases the audio quality of compatible tracks. However, it’s something most users either don’t use or, more likely, don’t even realize is there.

YouTube 1080p Premium will likely fall into the same use case — a feature few will use but, for those who know and care, it will be beloved for its existence. It’ll also be interesting to see how much of a difference it actually makes for those who seek it out, where picture quality enjoys the benefit of only having to exist on a tiny screen compared to television. TV is where it could really get interesting for us picture-quality nerds.

I also can’t help but wonder if YouTube is testing a higher-quality version of 1080p because of NFL Sunday Ticket, which it just acquired the streaming rights to and confirmed that it still won’t stream in 4K. Who needs it when you have 1080p Premium?!

For normal old YouTube, I’ll still skip 1080p and opt for 4K where possible but, if I am limited to 1080p, I’ll certainly be looking for the option. Bring me those bitrates!

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.