Last week, Amazon made waves when it announced Prime Instant Video content would be available to download for offline viewing on mobile devices. It’s a feature that Netflix users have been requesting for years, but speaking with Gizmodo UK at IFA in Berlin, Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt explained why Netflix isn’t interested in offline viewing.
“I still don’t think it’s a very compelling proposition,” Hunt told Gizmodo UK. Users who regularly download content when its made available to them might disagree, but Hunt went on to explain his, and the company’s position:
“I think it’s something that lots of people ask for. We’ll see if it’s something lots of people will use. Undoubtedly it adds considerable complexity to your life with Amazon Prime – you have to remember that you want to download this thing. It’s not going to be instant, you have to have the right storage on your device, you have to manage it, and I’m just not sure people are actually that compelled to do that, and that it’s worth providing that level of complexity.”
Telling users that they simply aren’t capable of making the decision of whether or not to download the next episode of a TV show might sound ridiculous, but Hunt says that Netflix has never seen much success when adding more degrees of functionality to its service:
“Every time you add a control, you reduce the total number of users who use them. We did an experiment with our five star rating system, for instance; everybody said ‘you’ve got to do half stars’, people really wanting to say a film is worth three and a half stars, ‘I didn’t just like it, nor really love it.’ So we left all the graphics exactly the same, except letting you light up an extra half a star, really simple. We had 11 percent less ratings coming in! Just insane! We’ve plenty of cases where we’ve seen that happen.”
So rather than focus on giving users a potentially debilitating choice, Hunt is more interested in allowing users to stream content more readily, even if they aren’t at home with their own Wi-Fi:
“As an example, what if we can put Netflix in a rack box that essentially contains all of Netflix content that you could imagine putting in an airplane server, right along with our existing offerings? That for me is a more interesting thing; can we make Netflix work on a plane, can we make it work on a train, in hotels? That doesn’t necessarily get you Netflix everywhere, all the time. But I think if we can make that work well, that’s a more interesting proposition than trying to change consumer behaviours.”
Hunt admits that offline viewing wouldn’t be “complicated to implement,” but it’s just not a priority for the company at the moment. On top of all the explanations he’d already provided, Hunt added that some content on Prime Video isn’t licensed for downloading, which will frustrate users when the one movie they want to bring with them isn’t available.
“I think Amazon is playing a good game of PR, but I’m not sure it’s a good consumer experience,” concluded Hunt. “We’ll see.”