Thursday 21 June 2018

Could Netflix be about to copy Amazon and bring in offline viewing?

Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards

Cara McGoogan

Netflix is considering bringing offline viewing to its TV streaming service, according to its chief executive. 

The much-desired feature would let customers download TV shows, series and films to be able to watch them offline at a later date and on the go. 

The announcement follows this week's launch of Amazon Prime Video, a standalone video streaming service with offline viewing that is £1.50 cheaper than Netflix's standard rate per month. 

Reed Hastings said the company should "keep an open mind on this" as it announced its first set of quarterly results for 2016.

Netflix now has 81 million customers, up from 75 million at the end of 2015, and has launched in 130 new countries around the world since January.

The flirtation with offline viewing marks a dramatic change in the company's attitude towards downloadable content.

In 2014, Netflix said offline viewing was "never going to happen". 

That opinion didn't change when Amazon first announced that its Prime Video would include an offline option. 

"I still don't think it's a very compelling proposition," said Neil Hunt, the chief product officer for Netflix, in 2015. "I think it's something that lots of people ask for. We'll see if it's something lots of people will use."

Hastings said the company is seeing "an uneven set of networks" as it expands across the world, referring to the need for offline viewing in emerging economies with poorer internet infrastructure than Europe and the US. Netflix is now available in almost every country, except China and a selection of smaller markets. 

UK customers would be wise not to get too excited about offline viewing. In a similar situation, YouTube launched offline viewing in 2014, but only for viewers in Southeast Asia.

Netflix attributed much of its 57pc year-on-year revenue increase to its original series, including House of Cards, Making a Murderer, and Daredevil

In the coming months Netflix will be releasing a new comedy starring Ashton Kutcher called The Ranch, and new episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Scmidt and Orange is the New Black. 

Netflix prices are also set to rise in the next quarter as it ends the legacy subscription package that has been in place since the company's launch in 2007.

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