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Netflix stands to make a fortune with offline viewing option

Netflix Offline Viewing

A few months back, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings got everybody’s hopes up when he said that he would keep an open mind about introducing an offline viewing option to the Netflix experience. And just about two weeks ago, you might remember a report indicating that Netflix was not only testing such an option, but may roll it out to users sometime before 2017.

For those of us who can’t get enough of Netflix’s ever-growing stable of incredible content, the inability to view Netflix videos offline has long been a frustrating shortcoming of the service, especially given that Amazon already offers such a feature for its Prime Video service.

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Historically, Netflix has been rather coy about why it doesn’t offer an offline viewing option. Somewhat quizzically, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt in late 2015 even went so far as to claim that Netflix doesn’t offer the feature because it doesn’t represent a “very compelling proposition.”

“I think it’s something that lots of people ask for,” Hunt explained. “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,” Hunt later added. “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.”

Truth be told, Amazon’s implementation is a bit on the complex side, but there’s no reason why Netflix — which already boasts a much superior UI — couldn’t come up with a much simpler implementation of the same feature. And sure, storage is an issue, but smartphones today boast more storage than ever before. Additionally, if Netflix implements a scheme similar to Amazon wherein videos expire within 48 hours of hitting the play button, storage concerns shouldn’t be much of a hinderance.

Speaking to how excited the Netflix fanbase is about the potential to view content offline, a recent AllFlicks survey of more than 1,000 Netflix subscribers reveals that 73% of subscribers would download content if given the opportunity. Additionally, nearly 2/3 of respondents indicated that such a feature was either important or very important.

When would they use it? We asked that, too, in an open-ended question. Respondents told us that they’d need offline support when traveling (in particular, air and car travel), camping, and working out in the gym. Public transit and train commutes also earned several mentions. Many respondents had no trouble thinking of times they might use Netflix offline – which is good news for Netflix, if reports of them adding this functionality are true.

Given the groundswell of interest in offline viewing, it stands to reason that Netflix could make a pretty penny with such an option. Remember, Netflix has a huge subscriber base but it’s effectively running out of new countries to enter. And in a world where shareholders are always demanding growth and increasing profits, offering an offline viewing option even for an extra $2/month seems like a no-brainer.

Would it be nice if Netflix rolled out offline viewing as a built-in feature? Sure, but it’s no secret that Netflix has long been looking for new ways to increase its overall revenue.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.