Skip to content
Geoff GordonJun 5, 20246 min read

Decoding the Art of Adoption: Falling Flat and Coming Out on Top

An Introduction to Codec Adoption

Most people with access to a smartphone, TV, tablet or any other form of content streaming use video and audio codecs in their day-to-day life, likely even multiple times across a host of different devices. Practically every technological device that we use on a regular basis is supported by the implementation of tried and tested, powerful codecs. These pro-codecs are responsible for delivering high-quality content directly to consumers and are the reason why codec adoption is so vital to the industry.

A codec has one essential task to fulfil, and that is file compression and decompression. This refers to the compression of files before they are transported elsewhere, whether that be video content, audio content or even just a big text message. Most codecs come under the bracket of audio and video implementation, meaning that they are dealt with by broadcasters, media providers, vendors and production houses.

Today we’re going to explore how successful codec adoption operates within the industry, and how it can take a sharp turn, producing codecs that struggle – and ultimately, don’t make it. Come with us as we explore the process of codec adoption and how it can affect the broadcast and media industry, and even the daily lives of consumers using codecs without realizing.

A Deep Dive Into The Adoption Process

Decoding and encoding are the bread and butter of codec adoption. Ultimately, there are a few questions to be asked when there’s a new codec on the dock: can it do what it says on the tin, does it do it well, and what makes it special? The Media Coding Industry Forum (MC-IF) play an important role in codec adoption. Founded in 2018, MC-IF facilitates cross-industry discussions surrounding the non-technical aspects of codec deployment, and codec standards, including patent licensing. The next codec under the spotlight, Versatile Video Coding (VVC) has led to MC-IF playing a massive role in the future of codec standardization.

Before embarking into the world, all new codecs need to be put through the real test: surviving industry scrutiny. Codec adoption is as simple as it sounds – it is the process of a new codec being adopted by vendors, implemented into workflows and systems, tried out in real scenarios, and discovering how well it performs.

The process of codec adoption has revealed some diamonds, such as AVC/H.264 but not every proposal makes it past the standards body, and even of those that do, not all see broad uptake. Let’s explore two such codecs, why they didn’t take off as expected, and how the process of codec adoption was so central to determining their fates.

Marginal Codecs: Why Some Codecs Struggle to Find a Footing

A good example of a codec that has struggled to find its audience is EVC/MPEG-5. While the industry was ready and waiting for the release of this royalty free codec, once it hit the ground, it pretty much grind to a halt. The issue with it was that VP9 and AV1, both codecs adopted by the industry not too long before the launch of EVC, already offered improved compression efficiency. Meaning that unless VP9 or AV1 were to fall off the face of the earth, there was little point in implementing EVC for any reason at all. Often, the space targeted by the newcomer in the codec market is already filled, and with many vendors and professionals already using the perfectly good counterpart with the same speed, bitrate, framerate and efficiency, the new codec gets lost in the noise fast. Even though EVC was standardized around the same time as VVC/H.266 (see below), it has been clear for years that it lacks the momentum to make it last.

VC-1 is an interesting example, but not because of lack of adoption, rather because it was used for a relatively short period of time during the days of Blu-ray where it also had early success with Microsoft Windows Media (WMV), but it had a relatively short lifetime. For one thing, VC-1 has seen over 70% of its patents expire as of 2023, but why? Essentially, users quickly realized that encoding and decoding performed by VC-1 required significant computing power, therefore most general-purpose software implementation use cases ended up being slow, especially when applied to HD content. With this, the widespread adoption of VC-1 hasn’t quite stayed afloat, and we’ve not heard much about it since.

The real story of codec adoption is that it is, mostly, a game of trial and error. Whilst some codecs enter the industry at just the right time and are widely adopted pretty much straight away, others might be hit mid-flight and never spoken about again. Ultimately, codec adoption relies on the state of the codec industry, what is available, and the needs of broadcast and production specialists at the time. For successful codecs, however, the story looks a little bit different. How does a codec get adopted far and wide, and what are the differences in its journey compared to the EVC’s and VC-1’s of the industry?

Exploring Successful Adoption: The Dawn of VVC

If you’ve been knocking around in the codec industry for a while, you have likely been caught up in the hype that VVC has caused over the past few years. VVC, also known as H.266, is a highly anticipated newcomer to the compression standard scene, finalized in July 2020 by the Joint Video Experts Team (JVET) and the MPEG working group. Above all else, there is one thing getting industry professionals excited about VVC: the promise of 8K support (and beyond).

What many people in the industry don’t realize is that high resolution content like 4K and 8K takes a big toll on compression and delivery. Whilst codecs in use today like HEVC are doing the job for now, it’s likely that they will not be able to meet these standards forever. VVC offers a new prospect, with at least 40% better compression for larger files that will be guaranteed by the rise of 8K in the years to come. For service providers to compress video for delivery and consumption on smart devices without affecting quality better compression is required, and VVC appears to fill the void. Making its debut in the broadcast and media industry, VVC is sure to support the video industry for some time, with many expecting it to be widely adopted within 3-4 years.

VVC is a fantastic example of a video codec that has come into the industry at the right time, offering the right features for success. With the broadcast and media industry just delving into 5G, 8K, Wi-Fi 6 (and even Wi-Fi 7 and 6G in a few years), VVC fills in a spot in the market where other codecs will likely not be able to hold up.

The Video Codecs of the Future

The process of codec adoption will change over time, with some codecs taking the top spot and others not making it. As a result, new and old codecs have lengthy timelines – and even during this time, the widespread adoption status may change.

Ultimately, codec adoption relies on the industry, its requirements, trends, developments and needs at the time. With virtual/augmented reality, 8K and 5G being all the rage in 2024, any video codec on the horizon that promises to solve these challenges will undoubtedly have better adoption, and therefore last longer in the industry for years to come.

In the same way, codecs that don’t offer anything new, or offer the same features as existing widespread codecs in the industry will likely not experience widespread adoption. With the video codec industry already established to a substantial status, introducing newcomers onto the roster is a more challenging journey than it has ever been – but also more rewarding.

To find out more about how MainConcept has supported VVC from day one, check out our VVC overview and read our blog on the subject to get all caught up. Got questions? We’re happy to help, just drop us a line here.


Geoff Gordon

As vice-president of Global Marketing, Geoff oversees a team of product marketing, communications, and creative design experts and drives the overall marketing direction of MainConcept. With over 20 years of experience, Geoff has worked for a prestigious roster of companies such as Qualcomm, Intuit, Silicon Graphics,, and McDonald's. Geoff earned an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a BBA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When not working, Geoff enjoys hiking, running, Scuba diving, reading and travel.