Hastings: Netflix Download Option Having ‘Small Impact’

Netflix introduced the feature late last year
Reed Hastings Q1 2017.jpg

Netflix’s recently introduced download option for certain titles and series is sizing up to be a nice-to-have, rather than critical, feature for its massive subscriber base, according to CEO Reed Hastings.

Netflix's downloading capability, launched in November 2016 for certain titles and series, is having a “small impact” and is serving as a “modest feature” in the early going for subscribers who want to view Netflix fare offline when they are on a plane or otherwise not within reach of a solid Internet connection, Hastings said Monday (April 17) on the company’s Q1 2017 earnings call.

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As networks around the world become more modern, downloading will become less relevant, he reasoned.

“Basically, you want to be able to just click and watch,” Hastings said. “You don’t want to think in advance outside a couple of narrow scenarios.”

Netflix execs were also asked to comment on the state of competition with rivals such as HBO and Amazon.

Hastings argued that the market is big enough to accommodate everyone, noting that Amazon offers “great programming” and that HBO continues to grow.

He said Netflix is also dealing with other competitive forced. “We’re competing with sleep, on the margin,” Hastings said.

Amazon, he added, can do great work without impacting Netflix directly. “Home entertainment is not a zero-sum game.”

If Netflix is covetous of anything, it’s the streaming volume YouTube generates.

“We’ve definitely got YouTube Envy,” Hastings said while pointing out that while YouTube streams more than 1 billion hours of video per day, Netflix’s SVOD offering streams a little over 1 billion hours per week. “So we have a little ways to go.”

Netflix also shrugged off continued questions about whether it might follow other OTT players by adding sports or other types of live content to its platform.

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“We’d have to invest in technology to do it,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said. “Our desire is to continue to double down on our consumer proposition of on demand,” he added, noting that live harkens back to the “old paradigm of appointment television.”