Netflix brings AV1 codec support to the PS4 Pro and select TVs

Netflix brings AV1 codec support to the PS4 Pro and select TVs

Netflix has announced that it’s bringing AV1 codec support to both the PlayStation 4 Pro and select TVs, after first bringing support to Android smartphones in February 2020. Netflix says that it has improved the video streaming experience, particularly under challenging network conditions, and that it’s also happy to see companies announce AV1 decoder chipsets for a wide range of consumer electronics.

For context, AV1 is a royalty-free, open-source video codec that’s largely seen as a replacement for the H.264/AVC codec used by most video streaming services. It claims to offer better compression efficiency and improved visual quality than its predecessor VP9 as well as H.264 and H.265 codecs. Content encoded in AV1 generally maintains higher quality at a smaller file size compared to content encoded in H.264.

In the announcement, Netflix explained that it had faced a number of challenges in bringing AV1 codec support to TVs. The first was a simple question: what’s the best encoding recipe that Netflix should use to encode its content? When video files are saved, there’s more than just a file format and a codec. There are numerous other parts of the equation too, such as the bit-depth, bitrate, and resolution.

The second challenge was trying to figure out how to guarantee smooth playback on TVs, and Netflix made sure that TVs that claim to support AV1 could handle extreme conditions where the bitrate reached the upper limit of the specification. These were tested by creating a set of certification streams to ensure that they play as intended.

Netflix also outlined a third and a fourth problem — how to roll out AV1 streaming on a company of Netflix’s scale, and how to continuously monitor its streaming capabilities.

The company says that it used A/B testing to see whether or not there was an improvement in playback quality for end-users. Netflix described its methodology, saying that “In each of these tests, members with eligible TVs were randomly allocated to one of two cells, “control” and “treatment”. Those allocated to the “treatment” cell received AV1 streams while those allocated to the “control” cell received streams of the same codec format as before. In all of these A/B tests, we observed improvements across many metrics for members in the “treatment” cell, in-line with our expectations”

The initial launch includes a number of AV1-capable TVs, along with the PlayStation 4 Pro. The company says that it’s working with external partners to enable more devices for AV1 streaming.

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Adam Conway
Adam Conway

I'm a senior editor at XDA-Developers. I have a BSc in Computer Science from University College Dublin, and I'm a lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at [email protected] My Twitter is @AdamConwayIE and my Instagram is adamc.99.