clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Netflix shuts the door on offline playback: 'It's never going to happen'

New, 22 comments

The streaming service has never been a fan of the idea

Netflix isn't concerned about providing your entertainment on a flight or any place else that lacks a strong Wi-Fi signal. The streaming service recently (again) reiterated that it has no plans to support offline playback. "It's never going to happen," Netflix's Cliff Edwards recently told TechRadar. When asked by The Verge to confirm Edwards' remarks, a spokesperson provided the following statement: "We have been asked the same question for several years and have always given the exact same answer."

So the company's message couldn't be much clearer: offline playback isn't in the cards, and it never really was to begin with. Netflix does seems more concrete and definitive about the subject now. In January, Joris Evers — then Netflix's director of corporate and technology communications — described such a feature as "very unlikely," but stopped short of dismissing the possibility outright.

Netflix is happy to let others handle your offline needs

The position makes perfect business sense. Consumers have plenty of other options for downloading movies and TV shows to watch when they're away from an internet connection. There's iTunes. There's Google Play. There's Vudu / UltraViolet. And Amazon lets Kindle Fire tablet owners download some Prime Instant Video content for offline viewing as well.

Adding offline support could further muddy Netflix's already-complex licensing deals and introduce potential new headaches for subscribers. Time restrictions would almost certainly be placed on cached content, and you'd need to worry about downloading those large files to begin with. Right now, everything is pretty simple; if you've got a decent connection, you can watch anything from Netflix's catalog without a problem — both at home on your cozy Wi-Fi network and over cellular data networks.

"Offline playback is transitional."

In Netflix's view, offline playback is a fix to a short-term inconvenience. Our connections to the web are constantly getting faster, so why bother with the interim step? "Underlying our philosophy is two things. The first is that offline playback is transitional — the internet is getting better quickly and we would rather concentrate on getting better at what's coming than what's going," a spokesperson told The Verge. Maybe that's a tad optimistic; connectivity when traveling still lags our everyday internet speeds pretty badly. But in that case, Netflix would point you to the second thing guiding its philosophy: all the other options for taking video offline that we outlined above. Netflix sees no need to help cure your boredom on cross-country flights. For that, the company is happy to point you toward Apple and iTunes. Netflix's whole business is made possible by the internet, so why would Reed Hastings worry about what happens when you leave it?