Netflix dismisses offline downloads, as Amazon flies ahead
James R | On 09, Sep 2015
Netflix has dismissed Amazon’s idea of offering offline downloads to Prime Instant Video subscribers, instead choosing to focus on other services, such as in-flight streaming on airplanes.
Amazon announced the new option earlier this month, making it the first subscription VOD service in the UK to allow customers to download titles for offline usage – ideal for journeys in cars, trains and planes, or holidays abroad when Internet connections are far more expensive. The move was welcomed by customers and hailed by pundits as putting Amazon one step ahead of Netflix.
Amazon’s rival, though, has dismissed the idea, claiming that offline downloads would be too confusing for members.
Neil Hunt, Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, told Gizmodo at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin would add “considerable complexity” for customers.
“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,” he argued.
“I think it’s something that lots of people ask for. We’ll see if it’s something lots of people will use.”
Instead, he emphasised that Netflix has one eye on the sky, asking the question of whether they can make “streaming work better in more places that people want to stream”.
“As an example, what if we can put Netflix in a rack box that essentially contains all of Netflix content that you could imagine putting in an airplane server, right along with our existing offerings?”
“We are seeing the next-generation of Wi-Fi in planes, so that’s a direction,” he added in a separate talk with Digital Spy. “Instead of having their existing rack of equipment that shows the crappy titles that you typically find on a plane, let’s put Netflix on there instead, or as well. I think we can do that.”
Sidestepping the considerable complexity that would also go into such plans – airlines currently have their own deals with studios to provide newer movies than those on Netflix directly to passengers – Netflix has been beaten to the punch in the air by Amazon too.
In May this year, the VOD underdog announced that it was teaming up with US airline JetBlue to offer passengers titles from Amazon Prime Instant Video in the US through complimentary on-board Wi-Fi. Non-Prime subscribers would also be able to rent and purchase videos.
The VOD service is set to take off on all Airbus A321 and A320 aircraft this year, before landing on JetBlue’s Embraer E190 aircraft in 2016.
BBC iPlayer customers, meanwhile, regularly download shows to watch later online on their phones and tablets.
The comments from Hunt follow similar remarks from Netflix about Amazon’s recent deal to sign up the Top Gear presenting trio for an exclusive new car series. Hunt, incorrectly credited as Jones by Digital Spy, told the site that having previous episodes of Top Gear gave the company “a pretty good gauge of what audiences like”.
“Our buying decisions tend to be somewhat data-driven. We have a lot of data to get the deals we want, so there we go. Clearly it wasn’t worth the money to make the deal… I think they sold themselves for way more money [than they are worth].”