Amazon took a big step today to differentiate its Prime Instant Video service from rival Netflix: it’s becoming the first subscription-based video streaming service to make its content available for offline viewing on iOS and Android devices. Previously, the company allowed Amazon Fire tablet customers to download videos, but that didn’t address its sizable customer base who uses iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets.
The ability to download titles from Amazon Instant Video, Amazon’s paid video service, was also previously available on non-Amazon devices, so the technology to make this offline viewing option possible was basically already in place.
But don’t get too excited about the new feature just yet. Though Amazon Prime Instant Video has around 40,000 titles available as of earlier in 2015 (presuming you count every episode of a TV show as its own “title”), the offline viewing feature is only enabled for a subset of its larger catalog. That’s not a technology limitation – it’s a matter of Amazon forging deals with the content owners in order to provide the download feature to its customer base.
The company this morning announced a broad selection of offline-enabled titles, spanning genres including drama, comedy, kids’ shows, and blockbuster movies.
Of course, Amazon’s own Originals like Bosch, Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, Wishenpoof!, Tumble Leaf and Creative Galaxy, are included, but the company says that other series and movies are also available including a ton of popular shows like 24, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, Extant, Grimm, Hannibal, Justified, Mr. Selfridge, Orphan Black, Sons of Anarchy, Teen Wolf, The Americans, The Good Wife, Suits, Under the Dome, Veronica Mars, and Vikings, as well as HBO series like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Girls, Veep, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, The Newsroom, and True Blood.
There are also several popular movies offered for download, such as Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Captive, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Wolf of Wall Street, Life After Beth, Palo Alto, Starred Up, The Bling Ring, If I Stay, and The Spectacular Now.
The titles reflect deals with CBS, Fox, MGM, Paramount, HBO, and others.
While being able to stream video is not usually an issue in today’s increasingly connected world, there are still times when consumers will want to have the offline option available – such as when traveling on a plane without Wi-Fi, or preparing for an out-of-country trip where data charges could be high. It also makes sense as a way to fill a kid’s Wi-Fi-only iPad with shows before a long car trip.
The feature is rolling out now to the Amazon Instant Video app on Android and iOS devices, and will be available next to the supported title by way of a “Download” (down arrow) icon. When the download completes, a downloaded on check mark icon will display. After a download, users have a limited time to actually watch the TV show or movie, up to 30 days, depending on the agreement with the content owner.