According to well known website FlatpanelsHD, Netflix has started streaming movies and shows encoded in the more efficient AV1 codec to compatible TV devices such as Smart TVs and select game consoles. The Alliance for Open Media's AV1 is the first high-efficiency video codec that is royalty-free. It is backed by industry heavyweights like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, and of course Netflix. Netflix first brought AV1 streaming to Android mobile devices in February 2020 while YouTube brought AV1-encoded 8K streams to 8K TVs in May 2020. Netflix is now rolling out AV1 streaming on TV devices.
- "Today we are excited to announce that Netflix has started streaming AV1 to TVs. With this advanced encoding format, we are confident that Netflix can deliver an even more amazing experience to our members," Netflix wrote in a blog post. "We compared AV1 to other codecs over thousands of Netflix titles, and saw significant compression efficiency improvements from AV1."
Netflix said that all of its AV1 streams are encoded in 10-bit and in the highest available resolution and frame rate including HFR – but not yet HDR. Netflix did not specify bitrates other than saying that "AV1 delivers videos with improved visual quality at the same bitrate" compared to MPEG4 and HEVC and that "some streams have a peak bitrate close to the upper limit allowed by the spec", which probably refers to AV1 level 5.0 (30 Mb/s bitrate for Main) or level 5.1 (40 Mb/s bitrate for Main).
- "We always encode at the highest available source resolution and frame rate. For example, for titles where the source is 4K and high frame rate (HFR) such as “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”, we produce AV1 streams in 4K and HFR. This allows us to present the content exactly as creatively envisioned on devices and plans which support such high resolution and frame-rate playback," explained Netflix. "With dynamic optimization, we allocate more bits to more complex shots to meet Netflix’s high bar of visual quality, while encoding simple shots at the same high quality but with much fewer bits."
Most popular titles first
Since AV1 takes more CPU hours to encode, Netflix will reencode its most popular titles first. With this launch, AV1 streaming should reach "tens of millions of Netflix members". The company said that it observed a 2% reduction in play delay with AV1 and an up to 38% reduction for noticeable drops in streaming quality on some TVs. Netflix's AV1 streams require a TV device with an AV1 decoder that meets the specification requirements. For non-compatible TV devices Netflix will continue to use HEVC and MPEG4 AVC.
- "Our initial launch includes a number of AV1 capable TVs as well as TVs connected with PS4 Pro. We are working with external partners to enable more and more devices for AV1 streaming. Another exciting direction we are exploring is AV1 with HDR," the company said.