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This article was published on June 25, 2016

Dear Netflix: 7 reasons offline video support make sense

Dear Netflix: 7 reasons offline video support make sense
Napier Lopez
Story by

Napier Lopez


Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

Less than two years ago, Netflix told the world that offline video was “never going to happen,’’ indicating it would rather improve the infractructure to allow streaming inmore places. Recently, the company has been backtracking, and that’s a great thing for everyone.

Back in April, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that the company had to “keep an open mind” about the issue. Then just yesterday, a report with quotes from several industry insiders indicated the feature might just months away.

I certainly hope that’s true. Here are just a few reasons and usage scenarios offline video would make Netflix better for everyone.

1 – Air travel

Airplanes are the perfect place to plow through a show. You’re on round-trip flights from the US to Europe, and everything on the in-flight entertainment system is either boring or old. How much better would life be if you could binge an entire season of Kimmy Schmidt instead?

Planes have Wi-Fi nowadays, but internet in the sky sucks. It’s expensive, slow, and often not available internationally. Some airlines are working to remedy this, but it’s going to be a long time before it approximates anything like a LTE network, let alone your home connection.

2 – Subways, gyms and poor signal in general

It’s not just long flights. Here are just a few recent occasions I’ve wanted to watch Netflix, but was unable to:

  • Riding the subway for 50 minutes to visit my girlfriend
  • While on a cardio machine for an hour in the bunker I call my gym
  • Sitting on a coach bus when travelling between states with spotty coverage
  • Riding an Uber home

Etc, etc. I read a book or watched something from another service instead. Which brings me to my next point…

3 – Amazon does it

Amazon Prime Video launched offline support in September to a fair bit of applause.
Netflix shouldn’t just copy everyone else, but when other services offer better features, people will use that instead.

Case in point: In a recent flight to California, I wanted to catch up on ‘Orange is the New Black.’ I ended up bingeing through Amazon’s ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ instead. Now I’m a season and a half behind on OITNB, and am curious about more Amazon shows due to the increased exposure.

Worse yet (for Netflix), sometimes I’ll watch a show available on both services on Amazon just because I know I have the option to download.

4 – Saving on data overages

Netflix recently introduced data saver options on its mobile apps. Hooray! You know what be even better? Being able to plan ahead.

When I watch Netflix, I’m normally bingeing through one or two shows. In other words, I know what I’m going to be watching next, and I can easily plan ahead and download episodes for my trips or workouts instead of hoping for a decent signal.

I’m also lucky to have unlimited data, but not everyone does. Being able to download episodes at home to watch on the go or during travel would save customers from going over their data allotments.

You could Netflix and chill on a remote island
Credit: Art404
You could Netflix and chill on a remote island

5 – Paying Netflix subscribers download Netflix shows through shady means

I’ve seen people with active Netflix accounts download episodes from torrents for the very reason above. Some times it’s simply because they’re travelling, and other’s is because they know they won’t have a good signal.  A quick Google search will shows this is a fairly common occurence.

6 – Maximizing image quality

Another scenario related to the above: People who are persnickety about video quality, like me.

Sometimes your network connection is be spotty. Maybe you have too many roomates, maybe you’re on a public network. And yet, you want to take full advantage of my laptop’s 4K display, or your fancy QHD AMOLED smartphone screen. Sucks for you – you’ll have to let netflix decide what the best resolution is.

Or maybe you’re on a generally solid connection, but you’ve been waiting a year to watch the latest season of your favorite show. You want the peace of mind of knowing your viewing session won’t be interrupted by that dastardly buffering circle.

7 – Most people will still stream

Adding downloadable videos isn’t going to be the end of the world for Netflix. Most people will continue to stream videos the regular way, much in the same way most people don’t download their playlists on streaming music services.

It’s not something Netflix needs to heavily advertise, but it’s a great option for users to have when you know you’re going to need it. There are also a myriad of controls Netflix can put in place to prevent users from abusing the system, such as download limits and time restrictions.

Point is, Netflix has has little to lose by adding downloadable videos, and a lot to gain, even ifit just makes its users happier.