Netflix will "keep an open mind" about introducing offline viewing, CEO Reed Hastings said during the company's recent earnings call.
When questioned on Netflix's steadfast commitment to streaming, Hastings said, "We should keep an open mind on this. We've been so focused on click-and-watch and the beauty and simplicity of streaming, but as we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it's something we should keep an open mind about."
Hasting's seemingly more open stance to offline viewing is a far cry from 2014, when Netflix claimed that the feature was "never going to happen".
Offline viewing is a feature that's been long-requested by subscribers, particularly those who travel and may want to catch up on the likes of Daredevil or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Yet Netflix has so far remained resolute in staying an always-online service.
So what's changed? A likely factor is Amazon Prime – arguably Netflix's chief rival in the streaming video market – beating Hastings and co. to the punch. Jeff Bezos's company introduced the facility to download TV shows and films in September 2015.
Even then, Neil Hunt, Netflix's chief product officer, doubled down on the "no downloads" policy just last September, telling Gizmodo "I think it's something that lots of people ask for. We'll see if it's something lots of people will use. Undoubtedly it adds considerable complexity [...] I'm just not sure people are actually that compelled to do that, and that it's worth providing that level of complexity."
Another factor could be the impending price rise for legacy customers. Introducing a feature that Netflix's most loyal subscribers have repeatedly asked for could help retain users who may otherwise balk at paying more.
The only hitch is that Hastings wording merely hints at the possibility offline viewing is something Netflix might consider, not a guarantee that it will. His reference to expanding the service globally – at CES 2016, Netflix announced plans to launch in 130 new countries – could also mean it might only allow offline viewing in regions where broadband infrastructure doesn't suit persistent streaming.