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Qualcomm is adding AV1 support, which could be huge for online video

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’re taking a closer look at the AV1 video codec and things that have slowed its adoption, and we’re sharing tips on what to read, watch and play this weekend.

Waiting for AV1

Uptake of the open-video codec AV1 has been slow, with major video providers waiting for broader device support. Things could change over the coming months, as both consumer electronics companies and chipset providers are poised to introduce new hardware with native AV1 decoding capabilities.

Chief among them is Qualcomm, which is planning to add support for AV1 to its upcoming flagship Snapdragon mobile processor, Protocol has learned from a source who has seen spec sheets for the chip.

  • Internally known as SM8550, the chip is expected to be introduced at the end of this year at the earliest, which means we shouldn’t expect any phones powered by it until 2023.
  • The chip’s Adreno video-processing unit will support native AV1 decode, something that none of Qualcomm’s previous chips have offered.
  • That’s barring any major changes, with our source cautioning that things could shift before the chip actually enters production.
  • Qualcomm Mobile GM Alex Katouzian previously told AnandTech that the company hadn't been able to add AV1 support to its existing chips due to the company’s long planning cycles, but that it would add support “in time.”

Qualcomm isn’t the only company looking to extend hardware support for AV1. The open-video format, which was first released in 2018, has been steadily gaining steam.

  • Samsung announced last month that its new Exynos 2200 chip “integrates power efficient AV1 decoder enabling longer playback time.”
  • MediaTek and Broadcom both have launched chipsets with AV1 decode support.
  • Google is getting ready to introduce a new version of its Chromecast with Google TV streaming adapter capable of playing AV1 streams.
  • Google has also been pushing TV and streaming device-makers to add AV1 support to their sets by making it a requirement for its Android TV platform last year.
  • Google’s push to grow AV1 support has been two-pronged, as YouTube is now also requiring device-makers to implement AV1 to get access to 4K streams.
  • The latter was part of a fight between Google and Roku. The two companies didn’t really explain how they resolved their differences, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Roku was going to add AV1 support to all new 4K-capable devices this coming fall.
  • One industry insider I talked to told me that the majority of streaming devices coming out this year will support AV1.

AV1 gaining traction is long overdue. Industry insiders have been frustrated with the slow progress of AV1 for a while now, especially given the broad support the codec has received on paper.

  • AV1 has been developed by the Alliance for Open Media, a 6-year-old industry consortium that includes all of the FAANG companies, ARM, AMD, Microsoft, Mozilla and many others.
  • However, with the exception of YouTube, Netflix has been the only major streaming service to embrace AV1.
  • Disney, which is affiliated with the AOM via Hulu, is said to be still in an exploratory phase.
  • HBO Max isn’t using it, either, with a spokesperson telling Protocol that WarnerMedia’s product team was “actively evaluating and monitoring it and other codecs technology as they emerge.”
  • Even Snap, which joined the alliance recently, doesn’t have a timeline for actually using AV1 yet.

AV1 adoption has been hampered by a chicken-and-egg problem. Without widespread hardware support, streaming services have little incentive to re-encode their entire catalog, which can be a costly proposition not easily offset by any future bandwidth savings. And without things to watch in AV1, hardware-makers have deprioritized adding codec support to their devices.

That appears to be changing now, which could make 2023 the year AV1 finally sees broader adoption.

— Janko Roettgers

TGIF: How to spend your weekend

“A Vibe Shift Is Coming. Will any of us survive it?” — The Cut. Are you prepared for the vibe shift? Are you at a risk of getting left behind when the vibe shifts? What is a vibe shift, really? Allison P. Davis’ instantly iconic essay and interview piece for The Cut published Wednesday has everybody talking, about the pandemic, about cultural trends and how to spot them, about mortality. Whether the vibe is actually Web3 and crypto, or a move toward Substack newsletters, the point is that something is changing. We just don’t know what.

“Kimi” — HBO Max. Steven Soderbergh’s new techno-thriller is about Amazon’s Alexa and Big Tech accountability, but only sort of. The titular character is the anthropomorphized digital assistant of a fictional tech company aptly called Amygdala. When Angela Childs, an audio moderator for the firm, thinks she’s heard a smart speaker record a crime, she’s sent down a rabbit hole of conspiracy that unravels her painful past. It’s a timely film (the pandemic plays a central part) telling a rather timeless tale about our relationship with technology.

“The Tinder Swindler” — Netflix. Netflix’s new crime documentary released earlier this month details the life of an Israeli playboy and conman who constructed an elaborate life of luxury and fraud based on fabricated personas he used on Tinder. The documentary is a fascinating look at the tricks and tactics of modern con artists, especially the role mobile dating apps play in such schemes by providing the fraudsters with a virtually endless supply of potential marks. The takeaway: Beware when swiping right.

Sifu — PlayStation exclusive; Epic Games Store on PC. Slocap’s Sifu is one of the best action games I’ve played in years, combining Chinese martial arts with Dark Souls-like difficulty and a roguelike structure that gives it an immense level of replayability. It’s certainly not for everyone; the game has no difficulty settings. But once you wrap your head around its unique take on the trusty “try, die and try again” loop, you’ll be hooked.

“Inventing Anna” — Netflix. Everybody loves a good grift. Case in point: another Netflix crime production, this time about real-life con artist Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin), taking over the platform’s Top 10. Unlike “The Tinder Swindler,” this is a fictional dramatization of the story of the Russian-born fraudster who pretended to be a wealthy German heiress to infiltrate the socialite class of New York City. It features a captivating Julia Garner of “Ozark” fame, in which the actress dons a starkly different but still equally jarring accent to play the enigma that is Delvey.


New process control technologies and improved operational efficiencies will deliver the necessary quality, precision and cost-effectiveness to move next-gen therapeutics forward. This can only be achieved if the industry embraces the shift to smart manufacturing, particularly with the use of IoT and edge applications.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to entertainment@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Tuesday.

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