Netflix adopts new AV1 codec on Android devices

Mike Wheatley

Netflix has become the first major content producer to adopt the new AV1 video codec that it has developed in partnership with companies including Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.


AV1 is a royalty-free video codec for SD, HD, 4K, HDR, and 8K streaming that many believe will be the successor to the h.264 and HEVC coding formats used today. It’s being developed by an organisation called the Alliance for Open Media, which also counts Facebook, IBM, Intel, Mozilla and of course, Netflix as its members.

Those companies are working to get the AV1 codec accepted as the new industry standard for video streaming. They cite several advantages it offers including reduced bandwith and the fact that it’s “royalty free”, which means anyone who uses it doesn’t have to worry about being sued for patent violations. AV1 also improves the power efficiency of video systems using it by up to 60% to 70%, while enabling the smooth streaming of media and also new applications such as real-time video conferencing.

Netflix said in a blog post it will adopt AV1 slowly to begin with, and at first it will only be used to stream a select number of titles to mobile devices running the Android platform. And that’s only if users enable then “Save Data” feature on their devices in the app settings.

“Today we are excited to announce that Netflix has started streaming AV1 to our Android mobile app,” the company said in a statement. “AV1 is a high performance, royalty-free video codec that provides 20% improved compression efficiency over our VP9 encodes.”

The superior compression efficiency means that bitrates are reduced by around 20% without any loss of image quality compared to Google’s VP9 codec, which is currently used on Android mobile devices. Netflix also uses the HEVC codec for 4K HDR content, and MPEG4 AVC for other titles.

Netflix said it ultimately wants to roll out AV1 on all platforms, but hasn’t said when it might do so. It said it’s still working with chipset and device makers to add support for the codec in new hardware.

“While our goal is to roll out AV1 on all of our platforms, we see a good fit for AV1’s compression efficiency in the mobile space where cellular networks can be unreliable, and our members have limited data plans,” officials said.

Netflix’s announcement is significant because it’s an important milestone for the AV1 codec. It comes after TV makers including LG Electronics and Samsung both said that some of their new 2020 TVs will also support AV1 for YouTube’s 8K streaming.