Video license deal protects the future of 4K

A licensing deal will spare video makers from paying through the nose (or finding alternatives) for 4K video.

The future of 4K video has been in doubt as of late. You see, the HEVC Advance group that's licensing the H.265/HEVC video format (crucial to stuffing 4K into modern data pipes) wanted steep royalties seemingly everywhere, with no cap -- even free services faced a small outlay. It was so pricey that tech giants started work on their own royalty-free format to avoid being on the hook. At last, though, HEVC Advance has seen the light: it's offering a revamped licensing scheme. While it could still be costly for some, it's inexpensive enough that it might safeguard the future of 4K content.

The new approach not only cuts rates by as much as half, but sets yearly caps between $2.5 million to $40 million per year, depending on the service or device type. Tech giants like Apple, Netflix or Samsung won't lose a significant chunk of their profit just to handle 4K, in other words. Moreover, any content that's completely free for viewers is now royalty-free. Public TV and ad-supported websites won't have to worry about coughing up cash.

This won't necessarily stop work on alternatives to HEVC, but it could prevent a lot of headaches with trying to create or switch to other 4K-friendly video standards, like Google's VP9. You may see HEVC in many more places than it would have gone otherwise, especially on low-profit devices like budget smartphones. Also, it could prevent some current 4K TV sets from becoming paperweights. Many of them support HEVC video, but it's less certain that they'll play VP9 properly or at all, even with an update. So long as the format takes off at all, you'll still be using that set when 4K is truly mainstream.

[Image credit: Jack Dempsey/Invision for LG/AP Images]