Netflix has introduced “Downloads For You,” a clever feature that automatically downloads recommended TV shows and movies to users’ mobile devices. For now the feature is available on Android devices globally, with iOS devices being tested soon (I’m an iOS user so I haven’t been able to try it out yet). Netflix users opt in to Downloads For You and then choose how much space they want to allocate on their device for recommended downloads - 1GB, 3GB or 5GB.
Downloads For You is a smart move by Netflix to extend recommendations to users when they are offline and looking for something to watch. Of course the feature is only valuable if the recommendation algorithms work well; if they don’t then users will quickly turn off Downloads For You and reclaim the space on their phones.
I don’t believe any other streaming service offers this capability, so it makes Netflix more competitive for users’ time. No doubt the more viewers watch, the more loyal they will be to Netflix. This will in turn increase retention and reduce churn, critical for subscription-based services. With all the new SVOD services competing for subscribers, churn and cost-per-acquisition will be metrics that gain further importance.
Downloads For You follows Netflix’s introduction of Smart Downloads in July, 2018, a feature which automatically deletes an episode a user has downloaded and finished watching, triggering the download of the subsequent episode. Smart Downloads is a really handy feature and has likely become popular among Netflix users, especially where broadband connectivity is spotty.
Netflix initially introduced downloading to mobile devices in December, 2016 following a period of skepticism about whether users would value the feature. In September, 2013, Amazon was the first major SVOD provider to launch downloading, initially to its Kindle Fire HDX devices only.
Back in 2012, TiVo was actually the first to enable downloading to mobile devices, pairing its TiVo Stream device with its TiVo Premiere DVR to enable downloading to iOS. At the time I called it a “killer app” because there were (and still are) so many times when we’re offline or don’t have good mobile broadband connectivity. All major SVOD streaming services now include downloading, Disney+ highlighted it as a key feature when the service was first introduced.