Amazon has announced its new Kindle Fire HDX tablet which includes many new features, but from a video perspective the one that stands out as a key differentiator is the ability to download Prime Instant Videos and watch them while not connected to the Internet. The downloading feature will be available to Prime members at no extra charge.
The new downloading feature opens up great new use cases (on a plane, at a beach, no WiFi, etc.) that add meaningful value to Prime membership and help to differentiate Prime from Netflix and the HDX from the category-leading iPad.
YouTube recently garnered attention for plans to enable temporary downloading for its content partners. However, as I told Variety last week, the benefit there seems limited: watching mostly short-form videos doesn't offer a lot of new utility. Conversely, being able to download premium, long-form content like TV shows and movies is an excellent value, particularly given expensive/unstable mobile bandwidth.
When TiVo announced its TiVo stream device about a year ago, I made the same value-oriented arguments. Since then I've become a devoted TiVo Stream user and have downloaded tons of TV shows to my iPad and iPhone for viewing on planes, in the gym, etc. The new Kindle improves somewhat on TiVo because (other than buying the new Kindle, of course), there's no need to purchase a second, intermediary device.
Note the caveats here are that Amazon didn't announce the specifics like how big the files are, whether there will be a limit to the number of simultaneous downloads, how long downloads can be stored/accessed, etc.
Even with these uncertainties, I think we could be on the cusp of seeing downloading capability become a new must-have feature for all video services. Particularly as mobile viewing has continued to soar, viewers' expectations of being able to access/watch content anytime/anywhere also increase. But there are simply times you can't connect or get sufficient/inexpensive bandwidth. In these instances, downloading is a killer app.