It took Netflix a while to get here, but better late than never. The video streaming platform has finally added the much awaited offline viewing feature by enabling mobile downloads. Yes, you can now Netflix offline by adding your favourite TV shows and movies to your apps download library. To do this you need to look for the download button (see image below) besides the content of your choice and just hit it to start the process. You can continue browsing or streaming videos on the app while your download continues in the background. Your Netflix app will obviously be consuming more data at this point, something the company plans to change in the future, but more on that later. For now, let’s try and understand how Netflix’s new encoding methods ensure you download high quality videos, while saving more space compared to traditional downloads.
So how has Netflix optimised downloads? The company says that they have adopted two new compression formats for their media library; H.264/AVC High profile and VP9 (profile 0). As VP9 is a royalty-free lossless compression format which was developed by Google, it is supported by all Android KitKat 4.4 and above mobile devices. The same is also supported by the Chrome browser, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft Edge (but not internet explorer). VP9 results in an average of 36% bitrate savings as per tests conducted by Netflix. On the other hand the VP9 compression format is not supported by iOS devices or the Safari browser.
If you ask why all of Netflix’s titles are not available for download, the answer is that the company is in the process of implementing the new compression formats to the entire library of movies and TV shows on the platform and is also sorting through download licensing issues with studios that own the original titles. Some may also notice their downloads expiring, which is mostly because of Netflix’s deal with studios in a particular region or country. Expired downloads don’t necessarily mean users have to download the item again, they can follow a simple procedure to renew their download for a specific number of times.