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YouTube TV details fixes for audio sync, better 1080p quality

YouTube TV — the most popular live-streaming service service in the U.S. with more than 5 million subscribers — this week gave an update on Reddit on some bug squashing and upcoming features, plus some welcome improvements. It’s an interesting bit of transparency in an age in which app changelogs are all but useless.

YouTube TV on Apple TV.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Probably the most interesting is that YouTube TV is “testing transcoding changes, including a bit rate increase for live 1080p content.” Resolution — that’s the 1080p number — is just one part of what makes up the quality of the picture on your screen. Bit rate is another. Basically it refers to the amount of data being pushed to make up that resolution — like the difference between a 1,080-piece puzzle with a picture made up of five colors, or one made up of 500 colors. Think of it like that. The higher the bit rate, the better the picture. And as we’ve discussed before, we’ll take a 1080p stream with a higher bit rate over a bad 4K stream any day of the week, particularly when it comes to sports (which is exactly what we’ve seen with Apple’s excellent MLS streams).

YouTube TV says the 1080p improvements will “target devices that support the VP9 codec,” which includes high-end devices like Apple TV 4K, Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Shield TV, and Chromecast. A representative said that if the changes go well in testing over the next few weeks, “we plan to make them permanent by this summer”

The rep also wrote that they’ve closed in on a bug that has led 5.1 surround sound audio to be out of sync, and that the service “will be testing a fix soon.” That’s a big one, since it basically rendered that relatively new feature useless.

And the multiview feature — which lets you watch more than one thing at a time on a single screen — is being rolled out to all subscribers “due to high demand during March Madness.” They’re also working on improvements ahead of the NFL season — you’ll recall that YouTube TV (and YouTube proper) is now home to NFL Sunday Ticket — and that there will be an update closer to the season in the fall.

And finally, there are some fixes available for Apple TV (hardware) users. They should enable HDR for the service, fix blank loading screens, and “address some 4K playback issues.”

YouTube TV is currently available on pretty much every streaming device, as well as in web browsers and on smart TVs and gaming platforms, with the base plan running $73 a month for more than 100 channels, with a good number of optional add-ons.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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