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Netflix TV streams get major upgrade and the results sound impressive

Netflix is rolling a new video codec out on TV apps, which it says will deliver a raft of improvements to the viewing experience.

The streaming giant has been testing the more efficient AV1 video codec on its television apps – since rolling it out on the Android app last year – and the benefits sound pretty tangible.

Netflix says that because less bandwidth is needed, it’s easier for streams to reach the highest resolution possible. That means hitting 4K resolution quicker, Netflix says, ensuring viewers are spending more time at the top pixel count.

Meanwhile, Netflix say AV1 means fewer quality drops-offs during the streaming session. The company explains in a post on the Netflix Tech Blog that quality drops fell by up to 38% in these cases.

In the joint blog post, six Netflix engineers write: “We want our members to have brilliant playback experiences, and our players are designed to adapt to the changing network conditions. When the current condition cannot sustain the current video quality, our players can switch to a lower bitrate stream to reduce the chance of a playback interruption.

“Given AV1 consumes less bandwidth for any given quality level, our players are able to sustain the video quality for a longer period of time and do not need to switch to a lower bitrate stream as much as before.”

The company also says that AV1 lowers the time it takes for playback to begin in the first place. It’s not a huge difference, but a 2% improvement is significant nonetheless.

AV1 is a high-efficiency codec with a royalty-free license and Netflix is one of the founding members of the Alliance of Open Media. Now it has started streaming in the format to television sets, while the PS4 Pro app is also compatible. The next step is adding HDR to the mix, Netflix says.

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