After indicating that it was warming to the idea, Netflix announced Wednesday that it has added an option that enables subscribers worldwide to download certain titles and play them back on smartphones and tablets while offline.
“While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we’ve often heard they also want to continue their Stranger Things binge while on airplanes and other places where Internet is expensive or limited. Just click the download button on the details page for a film or TV series and you can watch it later without an internet connection,” Eddy Wu, director of product innovation at Netflix, explained in this blog post.
Not all of the Netflix streaming library supports the download option, though Netflix originals such as Orange is The New Black, Narcos and The Crown are among those that are offered for download today.
Wu noted that the feature is offered on all Netflix plans and supported on apps running on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.
Update: Here's how Netflix touted the new feature today on Twitter:
Airplane mode. Road trip mode. Stuck-in-the-subway-for-20-minutes mode. Your favorite stories are now available for download any time. pic.twitter.com/g7QZA3TyE8
— Netflix US (@netflix) November 30, 2016
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings signaled in April that the company was giving a download option a closer look.
“We should keep an open mind on this,” he said then. “We've been so focused on click-and-watch and the beauty and simplicity of streaming. But as we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it's something we should keep an open mind about.”
The option enables Netflix to catch up to Amazon Prime, which also supports downloading for a portion of its library.
Others in the video realm also allow downloads for offline viewing. Comcast, for example, lets its subs download a subset of its TV Everywhere library and allows X1 customers to check-out/sideload shows and movies recorded to its cloud DVR system. The new Starz app (for its OTT service and TVE offering) allows subs to download most of its library. Dish’s new $99 portable video device, HopperGO, lets subs take DVR-recorded TV shows and movies on the road for offline viewing.
The new Netflix option could also erase some of the value and benefits of PlayOn Cloud, a new offering from MediaMall Technologies that enables users to record and download movies and shows from Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Now and other subscription services.