Netflix goes for data-saving gains on mobile as it adopts AV1 codec

Subscribers of popular streaming video-on-demand service Netflix who prefer to watch the diverse content available on the platform through their mobile devices are in for a treat.

The US-based streaming service has announced that it has started the process of encoding video content on its platform using the AV1 codec.

“AV1 is a high performance, royalty-free video codec that provides 20% improved compression efficiency over our VP9+ encodes,” the company notes in a blog post.

VP9 and AV1 are both video compression standards that ensure that we get quality video streams on our devices.

Given the limited bandwidth most of us enjoy, such encoding standards are critical as they compress video to up to half the size of older standards thereby making our devices and the networks they are connected to do less heavy-lifting and, thereby, leading to some savings and efficiency on the part of the user/subscriber.

VP9, developed by Google, is the codec of choice on YouTube and, as indicated in the statement above, has been the go-to on Netflix among other online services, as well.

AV1 is widely seen as VP9’s successor and Netflix’s adoption, seemingly inspired by the high compression it touts in its press release, should result in significant gains on the part of its subscribers.

Unfortunately, since this is just a start, AV1 encoding is not available on all content on Netflix. Just select content, available for viewing when one is using their cellular network connection (no Wi-Fi), can be streamed in the said format on Android devices.

“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.”

“Selected titles are now available to stream in AV1 for customers who wish to reduce their cellular data usage by enabling the “Save Data” feature,” the statement adds.

The decision is probably informed not only by the work Netflix needs to do on its part in order to be able to deliver streams via the AV1 encoder but also because of the limited hardware support the encoder enjoys.

Global official support for AV1 on the Android platform started with the release of Android 10.

The ‘Save Data’ feature can be enabled in More > App Settings > Cellular Data Usage > Save Data on all (Android only) smartphones and tablets where the Netflix app is installed.

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