Netflix, the Video On Demand (VOD) service that’s the poster child for internet-based TV is reportedly working on an offline viewing feature that will provide its subscribers with an option to download some of its content.
The service, expected to be introduced before the end of 2016, is anticipated to be for Netflix’s own content (Netflix Originals), a catalogue which continues to grow as the media company continues to invest more resources into the production if its own series and movies like House of Cards and Beasts of No Nation.
This is the latest discussion on such a feature as it comes months after Reed Hastings, the Netflix CEO highlighted such a feature as something that the company was considering.
It’s enough to create the impression that Netflix isn’t in a rush to roll out such a feature. After all, in its key markets like the United States and most of the developed world offline viewing is a nice-to-have that users can live without.
However, in some of the markets that Netflix entered with its global rollout at the start of the year, specifically in Africa, its introduction will likely be a game changer in the pay TV arena.
Africa has an internet penetration rate of 29% a figure that’s well below the 49% average for the rest of the world. It’s a consequence of limited broadband infrastructure in some areas and low uptake of internet in others mainly due to the high costs associated with going online.
At the same time, the users with internet access aren’t constantly connected. This is where offline access to content comes in.
Internet-based services like Netflix and every other VOD/Internet TV concern with an eye on the African market can enhance their value proposition by providing options like offline access which provide solutions to these challenges of expensive internet and intermittent access.
It’s the reality that other players like Showmax and iROKO adapted to already, something that points to their familiarity with conditions in Africa.
As a formidable provider of internet TV, Netflix’s adoption of the same strategy not only makes offline access a VOD prerequisite, but it also brings VOD from the most visible name in the space closer to a larger audience.
That alone is enough to increase the competition for other pay TV services including linear TV staples like DStv that enjoy a massive advantage by providing an entertainment service that’s not restricted by broadband irregularities.
Watching TV over the internet is not yet the primary way to access entertainment in Africa. However, changes like offline access just might bring that disruption earlier than we’d expect. This shows why this offline option is such a big deal.
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