With there being many different hardware companies making smartphones, tablets, televisions, PCs, and silicon; software companies making apps and operating systems; and media giants making streaming services, it’s important for key industry players to agree to support certain video coding formats to ensure the best user experience, minimize network use, and support a wide variety of devices. That’s why the Alliance for Open Media created the AV1 video codec. It’s designed to efficiently transmit video over the Internet with a minimal impact on quality. The best part is that it’s royalty-free so companies don’t have to pay any licensing fees, but sadly, its adoption has been rather slow until very recently. AV1’s adoption may accelerate in 2021 as Google is reportedly mandating that all new Android TV products support AV1 video decoding.
While it’s clear that AV1 is gaining popularity for online streaming and media consumption, only a handful of streaming services to date encode some of their content in AV1. YouTube streams some videos encoded in AV1 on select Android TV devices, Vimeo started to encode some of the videos on its Staff Picks channel in AV1, and Netflix streams select titles in AV1 if the service’s data saving mode is turned on. Google, one of the biggest proponents of AV1, recently announced its plans to use AV1 for “the whole range of Google’s video applications and services”.
For more widespread AV1 adoption to happen, however, there needs to be more devices with hardware to decode AV1, which is a necessity to ensure power-efficient and speedy video playback. To that end, Google is requiring that all new Android TV devices launching after March 31, 2021, support AV1 video decoding. This requirement is said to apply to all new TV products launching with Android 10 or Android 11 later this year, according to an internal slide reviewed by XDA. This slide is part of a presentation that Google held for its Android TV partners last year. Therefore, we do not know if this deadline is up-to-date, and we did not receive a response from Google when reached for comment. Shortly after the publication of this article, it was brought to our attention that Protocol‘s Janko Roettgers first broke this news in a newsletter dated October 29, 2020.
There’s more evidence behind Google making AV1 support a requirement for all future Android TV devices. The company reportedly already requires AV1 video decoding support for all 4K HDR and 8K Android TV devices that launch with Android 10. Industry insider AndroidTV Guide points out that many recently launched 4K HDR Android TV devices ship with an AV1-compatible SoC, such as the MediaTek T30/T31/T32 or the Realtek RTD2851M. TCL’s X915 8K TV, for instance, supports AV1 decoding thanks to its Realtek RTD2851M SoC combined with the RTD2893, making it one of the first TVs to support streaming 8K videos from YouTube. Since Google is already pushing high-end TVs to support AV1, it makes sense that they’re soon extending this requirement to all Android TV products, which Google is able to do since it controls the Android TV platform.
Interesting, I learned that ANY new #AndroidTV Television launching with Android TV 10, MUST support AV1 decoding with an SoC that supports it of course.
And that’s indeed verified by the recently launched Skyworth SUC6500/7000/7500 and Motorola Revou TVs (Mediatek MT9602). pic.twitter.com/gX5QH1K3Kv
— Android TV Guide (@androidtv_rumor) October 29, 2020
In fact, a major TV brand has already confirmed that its entire 2021 TV lineup will support AV1 video. FlatPanelsHD reports that all of Sony’s 2021 TVs will support AV1 video decoding. Sony ships its existing TVs with Android TV and will continue to do so in 2021. Separately, we asked TCL if its upcoming 2021 Google TV series will have AV1 hardware decoding, but we did not receive a response prior to publication.
LG and Samsung — both of which utilize their own operating systems — have already started to implement AV1 support in some of their TVs, according to FlatPanelsHD. It’s only a matter of time before a majority of TVs support the royalty-free codec. Other devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and PCs, are also recently getting AV1 video support. MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000 and Samsung’s Exynos 2100 mobile chipsets both support AV1 decoding, while Intel’s 11th-gen processors, NVIDIA’s RTX 30 series GPUs, and AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs also support AV1. As devices get better displays and streaming services increase their quality, the adoption of better video coding standards will be important to satisfy users’ expectations and to prevent our Internet infrastructure from choking.