The latest version of Netflix, now rolling out to Android phones and tablets, adds offline viewing support. Like other apps, this allows the video to be cached locally, securely, to the user’s device so it can be played back later without an Internet connection. It’s a useful feature when taking a long plane trip, or in places like India, where mobile data is expensive and slow compared to Wi-Fi.
This has been a feature requested by a number of people, although Netflix has not implemented it up to this point. The reason has to do with licensing. Netflix’s catalog was once made up of just content it licensed from other networks. The contract likely didn’t include offline viewing, and would’ve been difficult to renegotiate without adding to the cost.
However, Netflix has since been moving to a lot of original content, and the content is pretty good. So even if Netflix can’t get every network on board, they can still create a meaningful improvement to viewers.
Many of your favorite streaming series and movies are already available for download, with more on the way, so there is plenty of content available for those times when you are offline. For example, Orange is The New Black, Narcos and The Crown are available for download today.
See the shows listed above? All of them are Netflix originals, not bound by the same negotiating as things like Futurama. Now that the feature has been implemented, it may provide leverage to convince these third-parties. If some shows disappear, with licensing talks becoming unproductive, Netflix won’t be impacted as significantly anymore.
While this feature is good for mobile users, it probably won’t come to Android TV. With smart TVs, there is the expectation of always being online. Mobile data isn’t a concern. Caching video could be useful, perhaps using predictive algorithms to pre-load shows you’d watch next, but it’s probably not something the company is looking into. They have been asked for comments.