CBS Testing HD Streaming

CBS released a high definition player today in the labs area of their site, along with a few clips. They are currently streaming (not progressive download) in H.264/AVC format at 480p, with 720p and 1080p coming soon, they say.

Hulu and others are also beginning to test high definition streaming. Some shows on Hulu, for example, are optionally available in 480p format. They also have a few clips available in 720p.

Update: We’ve had a chance to speak with Eric Feng, the CTO of Hulu, about how this CBS announcement compares to the video quality provided by Hulu.

Hulu currently provides three levels of quality: 360p, 480p, and 720p. The first two levels are streamed whereas the third is progressively downloaded. Since CBS has yet to stream anything above 480p, these new tests are nothing extraordinary…yet. However, even if CBS begins to stream 720p or higher, consumers might not see much benefit. According to Feng, the median broadband download rate in the US is 1.9mb/sec and high definition video (ordinarily considered 720p or higher on the web) consumes 2.5mb/sec. So if CBS tries streaming 720p, they’d probably run into lots of buffering issues.

We should note that 480p and 720p are not available for all videos on Hulu. Only a certain selection of movies are available in 480p and only very few samples are available in 720p. Hulu doesn’t currently plan to deploy 1080p because it takes up too much bandwidth and processing power.