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
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
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
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?