Business Technology

Monday 19 March 2018

Netflix may finally let you watch shows offline

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul

Cara McGoogan

Netflix could at last add the ability to download films and TV shows to watch later, according to someone high up in the company.

The entertainment streaming service is considering an update to its offering that would include the much-desired ability to download TV shows and films and watch them at a later date or on-the-go. 

Ted Sarandos, the company's chief content officer, said Netflix is "looking at [offline viewing] now", but did not give any indication of when it might release the feature.

But UK-based customers would be wise not to get too excited about the ability to watch Netflix programmes when on the move. Sarando dashed the hopes of many users that have been anticipating the feature for years when he suggested that it would be aimed at consumers in developing countries.  

Although there is high demand for the ability to download films and TV series, this isn't the driving factor that could finally make Netflix introduce it. Nor is the competition from the likes of Amazon Prime Instant Video and YouTube RED.

Instead, it is a move to capture new audiences in emerging economies with poorer infrastructure in which internet speeds don't allow for easy streaming. 

"In [developing] countries they have adapted their behaviours to be much more of a downloading culture," said Sarandos, speaking to CNBC. "As we get into more and more developing countries we want to find alternatives for people to use Netflix easily."

Netflix has increased its interest in offline watching and downloadable content this year, with Reed Hastings, Netflix's chief executive, also teasing that the company would "keep an open mind" on the matter.  

It had previously been adamant that an on-the-go version of the service was out of the question. In 2014 the company said it was "never going to happen". And a year later Neil Hunt, the chief product officer for Netflix, said, "I still don't think it's a very compelling proposition". 

The bid to grow its global audience could be the compulsion Netflix needs. The streaming service is currently available in almost every country, except China and a selection of smaller markets.

Netflix added 3.2 million subscribers around the world in the three months to October 17, following the launch of its service in 130 new countries. 

As part of its plan to expand internationally, the company will also be producing original series in new languages. It forecast that it will have spent $6 billion (£4.85bn) on creating 1,000 hours of Netflix-original shows this year. 

"We are producing original shows in local languages," said Sarandos. "But I think it's a local flavour for a global product.

"Our goal is not to export American television around the world. Our goal is to export great storytelling from everywhere in the world to everywhere else in the world."

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