In the last few years, Netflix has become the indispensable service for most of the developed world. Between television and movies, plus comedy specials and original content, you can waste away many hours with the content available on the service. In fact, as I sit here writing, I have Netflix running in the background.
There is, unfortunately, a dark side to the service. That dark side is internet access: if you don't have it, Netflix is worthless. If you're on an airplane or driving through the desert, you are going to be completely without Netflix. For many people, this means resorting to either Amazon, which allows for offline viewing, or downloading content illegally. Obviously, neither of these options are good for Netflix.
In the past, Netflix has been very vocal about their customers' lack of interest in offline viewing, and the fact that they are currently not working on the feature because of the lack of interest. They have, however, remained open to the idea. A recent report suggests that, not only is the feature under development, but it is likely to be launched before year's end. Dan Taitz, Chief Operating Officer of Panthera, a mobile video downloading platform, says,
We know from our sources within the industry that Netflix is going to launch this product. My expectation is that by the end of the year Netflix will be launching download-to-go as an option for their customers.
Considering this feature is exactly what Panthera does, it is likely that the company is involved in the project. If not, perhaps they were approached to help implement the feature. Either way, a rumor from someone in this position within the industry is one to be taken seriously.
I still view download as something that's emerging into the consciousness of consumers. They know about downloads because before there were streaming services people downloaded movies and videos from iTunes, but they're not necessarily looking for download as a feature of their streaming service they're already paying for.
Of course, implementing offline viewing will be more difficult than just working with a partner like Panthera to build technology. The offering would be limited by contracts with the studios, similar to Hulu's Ad-Free option. Netflix will have to work with their content partners to allow for offline viewing, and not all partners will ever allow it. It stands to reason, though, that if Netflix is working on this feature, they will have already begun renegotiating the contracts, and have worked to include language in all new contracts.
Will we see this feature before the year's end? Let's hope so - it will give our team something to do on the flight to CES 2017.