Home / Tech-news / News /  The offline gamble by online video streaming apps

Streaming videos, especially when you are watching high-resolution videos, requires seamless internet connection. That is something mobile broadband can rarely provide, on 3G and 4G. Users have little option but to wait for a fast Wi-Fi network at home, for binge watching their favourite TV shows and movies. This is where offline mode emerged as one of the key drivers for audience engagement even when the internet connection is not handy.

Netflix is the latest player to join the bandwagon by adding the option to download videos in the Netflix mobile app. Users won’t be charged anything in addition to what they are already paying as part of their monthly subscription plan.

Though Netflix allows mobile users to adjust the quality of their video streams when they are using Netflix on mobile broadband, addition of the offline mode will make lives a lot easier and may boost its popularity in countries like India, where WiFi access is limited and cellular network is too inconsistent to allow uninterrupted video streaming.

Also Read: How to manage Netflix downloads on your phone

Catching up with rivals

Ever since its debut in India in January 2016, Netflix has been trying to live up to the expectations of Indian users by adding more Hindi movies to the India library and their cellular data usage options. But the lack of an offline mode, a feature available on all other popular platforms such as YouTube, Hooq and Hotstar, made it look out of touch with the times.

Also with Amazon dropping hints about a possible roll out of Amazon Prime in more than 200 countries by the end of the year, including India, Netflix had to brace itself for the competition. Amazon Prime is one of the biggest rivals of Netflix and provides the option to download videos.

YouTube is one of the pioneers in the area. Its smart offline allows users to make the most of their telecom operator’s cheap night data plans by giving them the option to schedule the time when they want the videos to be downloaded. Though, the feature is currently available only on Airtel and Telenor networks, it is likely to be available with others soon.

Hooq, a joint venture between Sony, Singtel and Warner Brothers, was the first player in India to offer the option to download and watch premium content on the go.

Salil Kapoor, managing director of Hooq India said, “We saw that people were downloading more than they were watching online. This is why we came with the option to download and watch offline on our platform from the beginning."

Why it matters

According to Cisco’s VNI Mobile Forecast 2015-2020 report, mobile subscriber base in India surpassed that of the US by the end of 2015 and crossed the 239 million mark. The report also points out that 60% of internet users in India are using a mobile device to access the web.

The findings of the report also suggest that video streaming is immensely popular with smartphone users in India and will account for 50% of mobile data traffic in India by 2017. This figure is likely to reach the 72% mark by 2020.

According to Akamai Technologies’ State of the Internet Report for 2015, published in March 2016, the average internet connection speed in India is 2.8Mbps which is among the lowest in the world. By the end of 2015, the average global internet speed stood at 5.6Mbps.

“It is important to look at the target audience. Network quality in India is still to pick up. Consumption of video on the go is still sub-optimal. The coming of a new operator has given boost to 4G, but it is still a work in progress," adds Kapoor.

The availability of offline modes allows users to find a way to overcome patchy or slow internet speeds, which make smooth video streaming difficult. It also saves mobile data usage when users are travelling and don’t have access to WiFi network.


Abhijit Ahaskar

Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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