Netflix has launched offline viewing for films and TV series with its latest app update. The new feature will let users download content in both HD and SD on Android & iOS phones and tablets. The feature is not available on desktops/web version of Netflix.
Users will also need to have a device updated to iOS 8.0 or later or Android 4.4.2 and above to use the feature. There is still no guarantee it will work – we couldn’t see the download feature on our device, and on asking the help center, were told that the feature is currently available only on some devices, without specifying which ones.
Not all shows and movies are available for download either. Currently some shows like Narcos, The Crown, Black Mirror etc. (essentially Netflix originals), are available for download, and the company mentions that it will keep adding to the list. Note that the downloaded content will take up as much bandwidth as if the user had streamed the content, and will additionally require spare space on the user’s device to store the files. The download will be by default in SD quality, depending on the screen size and resolution it’s being downloaded on.
Interestingly, Netflix will use its own DRM format to ensure the content it not pirated. Users will not find the video on their devices in any playable format, but the file will rather be saved in a proprietary format that will expire at a predefined time. Saved downloads have variable expiry dates, and downloads expiring within a week will be displayed in the ‘My Downloads’ section. However, once users start playing a downloaded file, it will expire in 48 hours.
Note that during the #NAMA event on content and payments on 4G, content providers described offline viewing as an intermediary model till connections in India got better, and were not clogged during peak times. However, Netflix, rather than target spotty connections in developing countries, seems to be targeting users that tend to travel or are on short trips etc., and in need of entertainment, unlike, say, YouTube’s offline feature for India. Amazon’s Prime also offers a similar feature, letting users download files on their mobile devices for watching on the go.