Netflix Starts Streaming Videos In Less Data-Hungry AV1 Codec

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Netflix is rolling out AV1 video codec support in its Android app, the company announced earlier this week. The new codec provides 20 percent more compression efficiency over Google's VP9, which the world’s biggest streaming giant uses currently.

Subscribers “who wish to reduce their cellular data usage" can enable AV1 by turning on the ‘Save Data’ feature. You can do so through the Cellular Data Usage menu in the App Settings.

Note that only “select titles” are currently available to stream in AV1. Netflix doesn’t detail exactly which titles are supported.

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Moving forward, the company plans to roll out AV1 on all of its platforms. It will also be expanded to more use cases as “codec performance improves over time.” The streaming giant says it's working with device and chipset makers to extend this into hardware.

Netflix uses the open-source dav1d decoder by the VideoLAN and FFmpeg communities to support AV1 on Android. The company doesn't tell how many Android devices support the new codec though.

It also doesn't specify if there are any hardware requirements. It is unclear if the AV1-encoded Netflix videos will have any impact on the battery life of smartphones either.

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Netflix rolls out AV1 codec

AV1 is a royalty-free video coding format developed together by some of the major players of the tech industry.

The group, which is called Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), includes Google, Netflix, Samsung, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and several other biggies as its founding members. AOMedia was founded in 2015, and they revealed the fruits of their labor as the AV1 codec in March 2018.

This royalty-free codec, which also consumes less mobile data, was supposed to gain universal support quickly. However, two years on, things aren't really that promising. AV1 adoption has been surprisingly slow.

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Though AV1 streaming is already available on YouTube, it is more or less capped to 480p. You can prefer to always use AV1 under the settings for Playback and Performance, but Google warns that it requires a “powerful computer.”

Netflix now restricting its use to the “Save Data” feature, which again compromises with picture quality, suggests that the codec is still in its early stages, possibly limited by hardware. Nevertheless, this move by the streaming giant should significantly help the codec gain wider adoption.

"In the spirit of making AV1 widely available, we are sponsoring an open-source effort to optimize 10-bit performance further and make these gains available to all," the company said in its blog post.

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