The Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), developer of the AV1 codec used by Netflix, Google’s YouTube and other streaming services, as a potentially more efficient alternative to HEVC, is under investigation by the European Union for possible anti-trust activities, Reuters reported last week.

If such activity is found to have occurred, the companies involved could face up to 10% of their global turnover for breaching the EU’s antitrust rules, Reuters reported.

According to a statement from an EU commission looking into the matter: “The Commission has information that AOM and its members may be imposing licensing terms (mandatory royalty-free cross licensing) on innovators that were not a part of AOM at the time of the creation of the AV1 technical, but whose patents are deemed essential to (its) technical specifications,” the report said.

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AOMedia started up in September 2015 in Wakefield, MA. Founding members include: Google,, Apple, Netflix, Microsoft, Intel, Netflix, NVIDIA, Cisco, Mozilla, Samsung, Tencent and others. When the codec was announced, it was billed as a more efficient codec with less royalty complications and expense than HEVC. The latter has long been subject to complex royalty claims from multiple patent pools and potential outlying independent IP rights holders.

In April 2021, Roku called out Google for using anti-competitive practices in its negotiations for the renewal of carriage rights for Google’s major YouTube app. For a period, the app was removed from new YouTube users on the Roku platform before an agreement was ultimately reached.

At the time, Roku claimed that the dispute wasn’t about money, but about Google using “unchecked monopolist” power to force certain performance practices including how platform searches were conducted. Tech blog Protocol broke a story at the time that Google was also leveraging Roku to start building AV1 support into its devices, which Roku resisted due to the need for higher processing power and cost that would require across all Roku devices.

At the time, only Roku’s flagship Roku Ultra 4K set-top box was capable of supporting AV1. Today, Roku is listed as an AOMedia promoter-level member.

Most of the leading TV brands, including Sony, Samsung, LG, and TCL have been supporting AV1 in smart TVs for the past two years. Some of those are also AOMedia members.

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By Greg Tarr

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