When Google added ultra-high definition movies to their Google Play Movies app, the service supported 4K streaming on “a Google Chromecast Ultra, Sony Bravia Android TV, or a Xiaomi Mi Box 3“. Notably the NVIDIA Shield TV was missing from this list, a device that would appear to be the best at playing 4K content due to its powerful specs.
Android Headlines took a look at why, initially postulating that the Shield supported an earlier version of the VP9 video codec that could not play content from Google Play Movies. Later, a spokesperson from NVIDIA responded, stating the company was working on a fix. It seems like NVIDIA did not support an encrypted version of VP9, something that would be useful for pay TV services.
DRM support in the open VP9 video codec is relatively new, and not necessarily standardized. Netflix switched to VP9 early in the year, publishing documentation which could encrypt and embed VP9 information in an mp4 container. This saved Netflix a lot of money on licensing the H.265 codec and money on storing and transferring video data.
The successor to the VP9 codec is AV1, the first codec designed by the open working group Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia). This organization has backing from a variety of companies including Netflix, Amazon, NVIDIA, and Google. The goal is to produce the most efficient media formats that don’t compromise on quality. The most notable benefit is the royalty-free use of their codecs. The first codec is expected to be published in March 2017.