Earlier this week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings hosted a conference call with the company's investors to discuss the first fiscal quarter of 2016, and he let slip a tidbit of information that could have a serious impact on the streaming service's numbers in the future.
When asked about the possibility of Netflix enabling an offline viewing option that would allow subscribers to download content and watch it without an internet connection — like on an airplane — Hastings said:
"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."
As Variety points out, Hastings's mention of Netflix's global expansion suggests the company is looking at more than just convenience for subscribers who are frequent flyers, such as how to court new customers in countries like India, where the internet speeds are mostly too slow to support streaming in a population of 1.25 billion.
It seems as though Hastings is keeping his options open, even going against Netflix’s chief product officer Neil Hunt's comments about offline viewing to Gizmodo last year:
“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.”
Reconsideration of the feature might be due to a 12 percent drop in Netflix's shares after releasing a projection of subscriber gains for the new fiscal quarter.
This is certainly an exciting possibility, especially in the wake of Netflix's end of grandfathered rates for longtime subscribers. Hastings said the increased revenue from the price hike will be spent on new content. Hopefully, that means added value as well — like offline viewing.