For years, Netflix had the same response when asked if it would ever let users download videos to watch offline: Nope.
Even as recently as last fall, Netflix’s chief product officer Neil Hunt told Gizmodo that allowing users to download videos for offline viewing would be unnecessarily complicated and would detract from Netflix’s core mission of offering everything you want on demand.
But Netflix started changing its tune this April, when CEO Reed Hastings didn’t exactly deny the possibility of allowing offline video. He left it wide open.
“We should keep an open mind on all this… as we expand around the world where we see an uneven set of networks, it’s something we should keep an open mind about,” Hastings said on the company’s earnings call.
Now it sounds like Netflix is inching even closer.
On Thursday, Light Reading, an industry trade publication, came out with a report claiming that Netflix would start allowing offline viewing as early as this year, based on comments from the COO of Penthera, a company that helps deliver online video for companies like Starz, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable.
It sounds like a bunch of industry scuttlebutt and gossip, but it did prompt a response from Netflix that still left the possibility of offline viewing open.
“While our focus remains on delivering a great streaming experience, we are always exploring ways to make the service better. We don’t have anything to add at this time,” a spokesperson told Light Reading.
That’s not a denial!
So, over the last several months we’ve seen Netflix go from completely shutting down any notion of offline viewing to leaving the possibility open. When asked about that shift in thinking, a Netflix spokesperson declined to comment to Tech Insider.
It’d also be a welcome change for Netlfix as others have allowed offline viewing, most notably Amazon Video. It’s especially useful on aeroplanes or when you’re out and about and don’t have access to WiFi. Netflix and other streaming video servic can eat up your cellular data plan pretty quickly.
Of course, there would be a bunch of caveats to offline viewing on Netflix. There would likely be restrictions like there are on Amazon Video.
For example, Amazon’s rules only give you a day or two to watch a downloaded video once you press play, depending on the deal Amazon has with the content provider. You’re also limited to how many videos you can have on your device at a time. Netflix may be more lenient with its own original content, but it’d have to hammer out deals with all of its other content providers too.