ByElise Jost, writer at
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Elise Jost

Though has won the hearts of audiences everywhere (and movie fans, depending on their country's offer), there's still one thing that the streaming platform seems to be lacking — and that is the option to download instead of streaming, in order to watch a movie offline when you're on a plane or in the middle of a corn field somewhere.

Yet, Netflix has repeatedly stated offline viewing wasn't really on their list of priorities, leaving users increasingly frustrated as competing platforms — such as Amazon Prime Video — offer the option to download movies and TV shows, and have them available without an internet connection. Adding to the fact that the number of new subscriptions in the US is stalling, it might be time for Netflix to refresh its offer if it wants to keep on attracting customers.

Netflix Is Starting To Consider Downloading

Though Netflix has never really been a fan of the offline viewing mode, CCO Ted Sarandos recently stated that the company was "looking at it now," explaining that the expansion of Netflix into new, less Wi-Fi equipped markets made it much more relevant to offer users the possibility to download:

"Now as we've launched in more territories… They all have different levels of broadband speeds and Wi-Fi access. So in those countries they have adapted their behaviors to be much more of a downloading culture. So in those emerging territories it starts to become a little more interesting."

How about viewing your favorite shows as holograms? / Netflix's 'Black Mirror'
How about viewing your favorite shows as holograms? / Netflix's 'Black Mirror'

Back in April, the CEO, Reed Hastings, had already indicated a slight shift in the mood:

"We should keep an open mind on this. 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."

Which essentially means that downloading still doesn't appear necessary to Netflix for developed countries such as the US, which provide more than enough internet connection over Wi-Fi or data to enjoy the streaming service.

Why Has Netflix Always Been So Reticent About Downloading?

Why hello, I'm trying to order a DVD? / Netflix's 'Stranger Things'
Why hello, I'm trying to order a DVD? / Netflix's 'Stranger Things'

Declaring downloading is "a little more interesting" and "something we should keep an open mind about" definitely doesn't mean Netflix is setting up a download button tomorrow. But why exactly has the platform refused for so long to offer this option to users?

The reasoning is quite straightforward: CEO Reed Hastings thinks that the success of the service lies in its simplicity and thus, he'd rather avoid adding options and features.

"I think it's something that lots of people ask for. We'll see if it's something lots of people will use. Undoubtedly it adds considerable complexity to your life with Amazon Prime — you have to remember that you want to download this thing. It's not going to be instant, you have to have the right storage on your device, you have to manage it, and I'm just not sure people are actually that compelled to do that, and that it's worth providing that level of complexity."

Probably arguing over offline viewing / Netflix's 'Jessica Jones'
Probably arguing over offline viewing / Netflix's 'Jessica Jones'

It's called the paradox of choice, and it's a theory that suggests that the more options you have, the less likely you are to use any of them. Faced with too many choices, your brain decides to ignore all of them. Still, Hastings understands the need to watch Netflix in places a decent connection isn't available, such as planes, where he suggests the platform could be implemented directly.

"I think a much more interesting proposition is, can we make streaming work better in more places that people want to stream?"

Ultimately, his idea is that Netflix relies on a seamless experience, and that having to decide whether to download and remember when to do it would interrupt our simple Netflix routine. Add to that the technical complexity of getting offline viewing rights from different production companies, and the frustration that would ensue if the one movie you wanted to watch offline wasn't available to download, and it seems that Netflix's reasoning isn't so absurd after all.

Do you wish Netflix had an offline viewing mode? Do you think you would actually use it?


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