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Is Netflix About to Copy Amazon?

By Rick Munarriz - Jun 25, 2016 at 9:40AM

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The leading premium streaming video platform may soon start letting users have offline access to some of its growing catalog.

Image source: Netflix. 

You may soon be able to Netflix (NFLX -1.52%) even if your Internet connection chills. Dan Taitz -- COO at mobile video software provider Penthera -- is telling LightReading that Netflix is getting ready to let subscribers download at least some of its content to watch at a later time. Taitz is hearing about this from his sources within the industry, which makes sense since Netflix would have to negotiate these rights with its content producers that haven't previously agreed to that form of digital distribution. 

This may not be a game changer for Netflix, but it would put its offering on the same level as Amazon.com (AMZN -1.13%). The leading online retailer introduced offline viewing last fall on Android and iOS mobile devices for select content. It wasn't afraid to call out Netflix in the process. 

"Amazon Video is the only online subscription streaming video service that enables downloads of titles, meaning unlike other subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Prime members can enjoy movies and TV shows as part of their membership even when they don't have an Internet connection available," Amazon's press release read at the time.

Following the bleeder

Signs seem to suggest that Netflix will be walking in Amazon's footsteps with temporary digital downloads, but it didn't seem as if this was an opportunity that Netflix would pursue at first. It called Amazon out last year. Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt, in an interview with Gizmodo UK, argued that Amazon would suffer as a result of making its platform more complex. He pegged this as the "paradox of choice" where giving consumers too many options takes away from the overall experience.

Netflix has made simplicity an art. Its catalog continues to expand, but the interface has always been intuitive and simple. It was a pioneer in getting its streams on video-game consoles and placing remote-control buttons in internet-enabled DVD and Blu-ray players.

Amazon wants to be everything for all people. It has the streams -- like Netflix -- but it also offers piecemeal premium rentals and outright downloads. It offers DVDs for sale. It will even buy them back when you're done. Netflix is so simplicity driven that it operates its original yet now fading DVD business through a separate DVD.com hub.

We'll see if this is the last time Netflix takes a page out of Amazon's playbook. There's so much that's possible. Can you imagine the explosive upside if Netflix -- already the streaming platform of choice for 81.5 million accounts worldwide -- would start letting its subscribers pay up for newer digital releases that aren't in its online smorgasbord? That would seem to defy the "paradox of choice" mantra, but isn't offline access a step in that direction anyway?

If giving its users access to content when they're not online is the priority at Netflix now, it's just a matter of time before it gives them a way to enjoy the videos that they can't enjoy at all on Netflix in its present form.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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