What File Format Are Netflix Movies?

By Meg North

Netflix is a DVD-rental and video-streaming website where you can watch on-demand films and TV shows using a computer, a specially equipped Blu-ray player, a DVD player and/or your TV, depending on how you choose to view the content. Netflix streaming movies were originally encoded using WMV3 and WMA formats, but they now utilize Microsoft Silverlight technology and use VC-1 Advanced Profile encoding with PlayReady DRM (Digital Rights Management).

WMV3 and WMA

WMV3 and WMA were the original file formats used to encode Netflix streaming movies before Microsoft Silverlight was used. WMV3 is the Windows Media 9 codec, as part of the VC-1 video codecs. Versions of Windows Media Player 9 or later were needed to stream Netflix movies. WMA (Windows Media Audio) compressed the audio data supplied to listen to the Netflix movie as it streamed.

Microsoft Silverlight

Microsoft Silverlight must be installed for current versions of Netflix streaming movies to play. Silverlight is a development platform that can run both audio and video. It is not connected to Windows Media Player, so Netflix viewers do not need Windows Media Player to watch streaming movies.

VC-1 Advanced Profile

VC-1 (Video Codec) Advanced Profile is the current video software used with Netflix on-demand movies in conjunction with Microsoft Silverlight. VC-1 Advanced Profile is used with both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, providing high-quality video playback. Microsoft Silverlight supports VC-1 Advanced Profile, and the two programs work together to provide the online video streaming through Netflix.

PlayReady DRM

Microsoft PlayReady DRM (Digital Rights Management) is technology that brings the VC-1 Advanced Profile encoding to Netflix and provides content access to Netflix viewers. The Digital Rights Management is necessary to prevent copying or pirating of Netflix on-demand movies. Microsoft PlayReady also works in conjunction with Microsoft Silverlight.