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Should Streaming Service Providers Be Offering Offline Access?

Burnley, UK, Wednesday, 07 September, 2016

Should Streaming Service Providers Be Offering Offline Access?
As our viewing habits change and more and more of us are cutting the cord, should streaming service providers be offering offline access to content?
Some streaming service providers, such as BBC iPlayer and Sky Go, already allow their subscribers to download and view content offline.  All of the providers that allow offline access to their content do so with restrictions. For example, all providers tend to allow subscribers access for around a month.
Netflix has so far resisted providing an offline service, although there have been some suggestion that this might change soon.

What is the difference between streaming and downloading?
Streaming, whether it be music, TV or films involves watching or listening to media which is stored somewhere other than on the device that you are using to access it. It’s called streaming because of the delivery method – the music or movie that you’re accessing is being delivered to you at the time that you are watching or listening to it.
Downloading on the other hand refers to the process of saving a file to you own computer or media player.  When you stream, you’re accessing it as it is delivered, when you download, you can access it whenever you want.
Downloading has the advantage of pretty much instant access, much like streaming. Downloading also allows us to own the film, track or album that we download and mostly, we can transfer the file to other devices and access it whenever we want to. Downloads tend not to be free, but a download album will normally cost a lot less than a physical CD.

Is offline content access what people want?
There are potential downsides to having a download option available to you. For example, download files are stored on your hard drive – so if you download a lot, you’re going to need a lot of space. You also have to wait for the download to complete before you can access it. This can be pretty frustrating if you just want to settle down and watch a movie.
Added to this, Neil Hunt, Netflix’s chief product officer gave an interview last year to Gizmodo.com and in this he explained that often consumers say that they want added features, but that in reality these features put people off using the service. For example, Hunt argued that when Netflix added a star rating system which allowed for half stars to be awarded, based on customer requests, they saw a drop in users rating anything.
Hunt also pointed out that downloading programmes for offline viewing is not automatic; that subscribers have to remember that they want to download the programme.  This, much like the star rating system Hunt argues, presents people with a “paradox of choice”, where they are literally paralysed into not acting at all.
The other issue, as Hunt explains, is that not all programmes that are streamed are licensed for download, which means that customers might be unhappy when they want to download something which they actually can’t.

So, do people want offline access to content as well as streaming options, and should streaming service providers be offering offline access? Or, is it a case, as Neil Hunt says, of people saying they want something, when in reality they would prefer that service providers keep it simple?

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