Royalty-free AV1 codec sees growing adoption

Mike Wheatley

Adoption of the relatively new open-source AV1 codec is increasing, enabling it to gain ground on the older, proprietary HEVC standard.


AV1 was designed by the Alliance for Open Media as a royalty-free alternative to HEVC. It first launched four years ago, and today is backed by a number of big technology firms, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Intel, Meta, Microsoft and Netflix.

The benefits of AV1 aren’t just about saving costs for TV makers and other firms that use the codec, though. It’s generally agreed that AV1 is able to outperform the HEVC standard by around 30%, meaning better video quality at the same bitrate, or alternative similar quality images at lower bitrates. In addition, AV1 supports HD, 4K and 8K video.

Services including Netflix and YouTube already use AV1 as standard, but other companies are said to be waiting for greater support from TV manufacturers.

Although it faces challenges, AV1 has reportedly been growing its market share versus HEVC, also known as H.265, the successor to the older MPEG4 (H.264) and MPEG2 (H263) standards that were widely used before.

According to the FlatPanels HD, the OTT workspace has grown at a much faster rate for AV1, helping it to grow its market share at the expense of HEVC. It said it believes AV1 adoption has increased by around 30% to 40% in the last year, citing industry members that were discussing the development at the recent International Broadcasting Convention. However, it added that most of this growth is “software-driven”.

Some TV makers, including LG, Samsung and Sony, have begun introducing hardware-level support for AV1 though, and in addition to HEVC it’s also showing up in PCs and smartphones. However, some supporters of AV1, notably Apple, have yet to add support for the standard.

Ryan Lei, a software engineer and video codec specialist at Meta, said an increasing number of hardware vendors have started adding AV1 support to their products, including chipmakers such as Intel, Nvidia and AMD.

Despite AV1’s growing adoption, the Alliance for Open Media is currently the subject of an ongoing antitrust investigation by the EU, concerning its licensing policy.