Netflix to Support Dolby Atmos Surround Sound for Streaming

Netflix plans to support Dolby Atmos surround sound, adding a premium spatial audio format to its existing 4K and HDR technology for images. Dolby Atmos, which debuted in 2012, is not only featured in movie theaters around the world but has been adopted by home theater systems from Denon, Pioneer and others. Microsoft now supports Dolby Atmos with the Xbox One, as do many manufacturers of sound bars and headphones. Hundreds of 2016 LG OLED TV owners are also now clamoring for Dolby Atmos support.

VentureBeat reports that the first Netflix title to support Dolby Atmos is South Korean film “Okja.” Other titles coming soon are “Blame!” (July 28) and “Death Note” (August 25). For now, “Netflix will only support Dolby Atmos on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox One S.” Also offering support for Dolby Atmos are “quite a few Blu-ray titles.”

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Walmart’s Vudu streaming service began offering some Dolby Atmos titles in 2015, but “video streaming services have been slow on the uptake — probably due to the high bandwidth required to carry the streams and the relatively low number of people who care enough about it to invest in the necessary equipment.”

Netflix is expected to expand support for “some 2017 LG OLED TVs,” which “won’t need an external Dolby Atmos-powered theater system,” but that won’t help the hundreds of 2016 LG OLED TV owners petitioning for support, says The Verge, which reports “ long AVS Forum threads, deep dives into the technical details of Atmos compatibility, and reps from streaming companies like Vudu saying they’ve raised the issue with LG to no avail.”

A Change.org petition even garnered over 450 signatures asking for support of the 2016 LG OLED TVs, which had “starting retail prices of around $2,799.”

At the heart of the issues, says The Verge, is that LG OLED TVs are “among the few devices that support Dolby Vision HDR,” but users “have to use the built-in webOS apps to get it … [and] since the TV doesn’t support sending Atmos audio out through HDMI to your speakers, you’re basically stuck choosing between the best picture quality or the best audio quality on a year-old TV that cost thousands of dollars.”

Meanwhile, although the Xbox supports Dolby Atmos, it doesn’t support Dolby Vision — “and then you have to buy and manage another box, which seems like a silly penalty for buying LG’s best TVs a year before the company added a software feature you need.”

As this reviewer noted, the LG OLED TV is a computer that runs an operating system designed for smartphones. “Why put a smartphone OS on your TV if you’re not going to update it?” That, he concludes, is “a huge miss.”