Written by Goran Nastic 16/04/18
NAB 2018: Netflix will begin live streaming in AV1 by the end of this year and said the codec will help it reach its next 100 million members.
Netflix is a founding board member of AOMedia (Alliance for Open Media), the industry consortium behind the AV1 royalty-free video coding format. Together with Microsoft, Google and others, Netflix started the AOM project three years ago, so while its commitment to AV1 is not surprising, the world’s largest SVoD provider used NAB 2018 to express its satisfaction at the progress made so far – the initial AV1 specification was released last month in March – and outline the company’s firm plans and roadmap going forward.
“When we started with AOM, we didn’t know we would get all the expertise needed to develop the right codec or get the members to join or technical results we got,” said Mark Watson, an AOMedia Founding Board Member and Director of Streaming Standards at Netflix.
“We have a codec now that for Netflix we see as our primary next-generation codec, the codec that will help us reach our next 100 million members and the codec that will help us give much better service to the members we have,” Watson said.
Netflix has more 100 million members, around half of whom reside outside of the US. Because broadband speeds in many parts of the world are very variable (even in some areas of developed markets), Netflix is especially interested in reaching potential members around the world whose internet is not fast enough to a get high quality video experience. AV1 will be used as the future basis for this strategy thanks to its proclaimed efficiency for delivering internet video – even good enough quality at speeds as low as 100kbps, according to Watson.
“Every bit that we can save on delivering good quality video means there is more addressable members for us, and that more of our members can get higher quality, HD, 4K and HDR video,” said Watson. “You will see higher quality at lower bitrate. Our primary interest is compression efficiency.”
Netflix has integrated the AV1 encoder into its systems, Watson explained, which it is now actively testing, generating and evaluating video streams. Netflix is already seeing “great benefits” in terms of compression efficiency, according to Watson, and the SVoD company will soon make announcements about these comparative tests.
Watson said Netflix firmly expects to be able to deliver live AV1 streams this year. Browsers will be the first target because they will be the first to have software decoders inside them, including those from Google, Mozilla and Microsoft. There are also expected there to be software encoders on some of the more powerful mobile phones and to deliver to those before the end of 2018.
“Work is well underway to optimise both encoder and decoder to make this scalable and practical on mobile devices. We’re really excited to see the rollout of our service on AV1 this year,” Watson said.