MarketWatch’s Trey Williams on a recent letter from Netflix to shareholders, in which CEO Reed Hastings gave ground on offline viewing:
Netflix for the first time Monday said it may consider implementing offline viewing to match Amazon, a major concession from Chief Executive Reed Hastings.
“We should keep an open mind on this,” Hastings said when asked about the possibility. “We have been focusing on the 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.”
In the past, Netflix has been a little more negative about this. Back in December 2014, a company exec said the feature was “never going to happen.” They later doubled down on that assertion, responding to a query from The Verge by saying: “We have been asked the same question for several years and have always given the exact same answer.”
If we’ve learned one thing about corporate communications, though, “never” should always be understood as including the unspoken qualifier “…until we can figure out how to make sure it’s profitable.”
Amazon lets users download some videos for offline viewing, which is great if you’re taking a plane trip or going somewhere that has no Internet. Improved in-flight Wi-Fi–which will likely start to roll out more broadly this year–will solve the first of those problems, but not the latter. So I’d bet Netflix moves on in the next few months from the “keep an open mind” step to “thinking about it” phase.