Netflix unveils offline viewing option

9:16 am on 1 December 2016

Video streaming pioneer Netflix Inc has added an option that allows subscribers to download shows at no additional cost on their mobile device to watch without an internet connection.

Netflix on a tablet

Netflix viewers can now download some shows to watch offline. Photo: 123RF

Netflix signalled in recent months it would add an offline viewing option to better compete as the streaming video market becomes more and more crowded. Amazon.com Inc's rival streaming video service, Prime Video, has had this option for about a year.

Netflix New Zealand emailed subscribers this morning to announce the new function.

While the option is available for all of Netflix's subscribers, it could have greater appeal in international markets such as Africa and Asia, where internet service is less ubiquitous than it is in the United States.

The international market is becoming the main driver of growth for Netflix. Of their 86.7 million subscribers, 47.5 million of them come from the United States.

Growth among US subscribers has slowed in 2016. Netflix added just 370,000 subscribers during the third quarter and only 4.3 million since the third quarter of last year, suggesting they are reaching a saturation point.

In that same time frame, Netflix has added 13.2 million international subscribers, including 3.2 million in the third quarter. Much of that has to do with Netflix's expansion by more than 130 countries earlier this year to over 190 nations currently. China is a notable holdout.

Not everything in Netflix's vast library is available to download just yet, including the recently released Gilmore Girls revival. Currently available shows include Netflix-owned Stranger Things, The Crown and Narcos along with licensed shows and movies like Parks and Recreation and Spotlight.

"While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we've often heard they also want to continue their Stranger Things binge while on airplanes and other places where Internet is expensive or limited," Eddy Wu, director of product innovation, wrote in a blog post.

The new feature is included in all plans and available for phones and tablets on Alphabet Inc's Android and Apple Inc's iOS platforms, the company said.

Netflix shares rose as much as 2.4 percent before it eased, up 0.1 percent to $117.62 on Wednesday on the Nasdaq.

The new option received widespread praise on social media Wednesday.

"You can now download stuff off Netflix to watch without internet," wrote Twitter user kt (@Katie_Ottaway_), "what did we do to deserve this miracle."

- Reuters