Seven leading media tech giants — Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix — announced this week that they have formed the Alliance for Open Media — an open-source project that will develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies to meet the growing demand for top-quality streaming imagery and audio across devices.
The Alliance looks to avoid another chapter in the entertainment industry’s long, costly history of format wars, from the battle between JVC-backed VHS and Sony’s Betamax format in the ’80s all the way back to the early days of the sound films (Warner Bros. Vitaphone disc system vs. Fox Film Corporation’s sound-on-film Movietone) technology). More recently, blu-ray and HD DVD battled to the death, with blu-ray emerging victorious. In the digital space, Disney’s cloud-based service Disney Movies Anywhere is currently facing off with UltraViolet, a “buy once, play anywhere” service from the other major Hollywood studios (NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros.).
There’s one small snag. In Nov. 2014, another industry consortium was formed with similar goals, the Streaming Video Alliance. It’s members include Charter Communications, Cisco, Comcast, Epix, Fox Networks Group, Level 3 Communications, Liberty Global, MLB Advanced Media, Telstra, Ustream and Yahoo.
The Alliance’s initial priority will be to deliver a next-generation royalty-free video format that is:
- Interoperable and open
- Optimized for the web
- Scalable to any modern device at any bandwidth
- Designed with a low computational footprint and optimized for hardware
- Capable of consistent, highest-quality, real-time video delivery
- Flexible for both commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content
“Customer expectations for media delivery continue to grow, and fulfilling their expectations requires the concerted energy of the entire ecosystem,” said Gabe Frost, executive director of the Alliance for Open Media. “The Alliance for Open Media brings together the leading experts in the entire video stack to work together in pursuit of open, royalty-free and interoperable solutions for the next generation of video delivery.”