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Netflix says it might let you download movies and TV shows

Amazon already does.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Wall Street worries that Netflix isn’t growing fast enough.

You? You don’t care. You just want to download “Narcos” on your iPad before you get on the plane, so you can finally get around to watching Netflix’s coke+guns+mustache miniseries.

And you can’t, because Netflix only streams its shows and movies. There’s no download option, so there’s no way to watch its stuff when you’re offline.

But that might change, says Reed Hastings. The Netflix CEO isn’t promising anything, but he is opening the door and suggesting that the company may change a longstanding policy.

I asked Hastings about Netflix’s stream-only philosophy yesterday, during the company’s Q1 earnings call — and pointed out that both Amazon and YouTube allow subscribers to download some of the videos those services offer.

His response: “We should keep an open mind on this. We’ve been so focused on click-and-watch and the beauty and simplicity of streaming. But as we expand around the world, where we see an uneven set of networks, it’s something we should keep an open mind about.”

It’s not a riveting exchange, but you can see it for yourself at the 22:30 mark here:

Plenty of wiggle room there, as well as a suggestion that Hastings is less concerned with amusing you on your flight to LA and more worried about countries with limited and/or expensive bandwidth.

Still, it’s a change from the flat-out “not gonna happen” that the company has offered in response to that question for years and as recently as last fall.

And since Netflix has already explained that there’s no technical reason to limit viewing to streaming, the only thing preventing the company from doing it now would be licensing deals that give it offline viewing rights.

Those won’t be easy to get for movies and shows from the likes of Disney. But for home-grown stuff like Narcos, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Update: Forgot! Thanks to the BTIG crew for suggesting the question.

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