Ask LH: Is There A Way To Watch Netflix Offline?

Ask LH: Is There A Way To Watch Netflix Offline?
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Dear Lifehacker, I am a Netflix subscriber and avid user. However, when I am without an internet connection (such as on a plane) I find I have nothing to watch. Is there a way that I can save Netflix shows and movies locally to my device for offline viewing? If not, since I am a paying Netflix subscriber, would it be wrong for me to torrent Netflix Original content? Thanks, Netflix Addict

Dear NA,

The short answer to your first question is no. The Netflix business model is entirely based on streaming video and the company has zero interest in providing a download service.

For starters, allowing customers to permanently own files would play havoc with the licencing deals it already has in place. Plus, it would essentially eliminate repeat business on individual titles and restrict the data it can collect from customer viewing habits.

One potential solution would be to offer limited offline access within the Netflix interface — an option to “save” 10GB of movies and TV shows, for example. We recently asked a Netflix representative about this and while they agreed that the idea made sense, it’s not something that is currently in the pipeline. For the foreseeable future, you’re stuck with an online-only service, it seems.

Now onto the second part of your question. Is it wrong to torrent Netflix Original content or access it offline via a third-party workaround? Of course it is! Just because you’re a paying customer doesn’t give you the right to flagrantly disregard copyright law. It’s important to remember that you are paying Netflix a fee to view its content, not to own it outright. It’s a significant distinction.

Refusing to watch a show directly from Netflix can also affect its future; particularly with niche titles. Let’s say that 50 per cent of Netflix customers chose to illegally download Chef’s Table instead of watching it from the source — none of those views would count towards Netflix’s total and could result in the show being cancelled.


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  • I’d love to see this feature. With my crappy 3.5Mbps connection I also never get 720p. If I could download it in advance it would make my Netflix viewing much more pleasant.

    • How close do you sit to your TV? I have a 3Mbps connection and to be honest, it looks pretty great sitting back on the couch. I will upgrade when the internet gets faster though.

  • I would love it if Netflix and Plex could work on this together. Pre-download a TV season to the media server then watch on a media centre PC client, in a web browser or transcode and sync to a mobile client. Put as much DRM on it as possible, if I can watch it on all my devices offline I wouldn’t care in the least. And play counts could also be updated back to Netflix as soon as any device syncs with the server.

  • I have a proxy server that acts as web-cache. I don’t have netflix, but it’d be interesting to see if the stream gets added to the cache for later viewing.

  • God no, not Chef’s Table! (genuine horror at the prospect of not seeing more new eps, not being sarcastic)

  • I loved Chef’s Table too, can’t wait for the next series.

    As for watching offline, that would be fantastic. I love the ability to take my Spotify playlist with me even when I don’t have an internet connection, it would be great to do the same with Netflix.

  • Isn’t this exactly the type of thing that the combination of PlayOn with PlayLater offers across a number of streaming services, including Netflix? I’m not a user of these packages so I’ve no idea how well they work out whether they work with Netflix AU…

  • I’ve been using PlayOn and its add-on PlayLater for years. This is exactly what you’re after. Records to mp4 in real time so a digital VCR. Works for Hulu, HBO Go and Now, Amazon Prime, Vudu etc as long as you have accounts. Can buy a life-time licence or pay annually. I have recommended this to lots of people and no-one has ever regretted buying it.

  • Yet another way streaming services, while a step in the right direction, are more difficult to use than torrents.

    This is the prime issue with illegal downloading. It is often the easiest way for people to access the content they want to access. Ease of access/use should be paramount to anyone trying to combat illegal downloads.

  • +1 to PlayLater. Since joining up last year I have not watched a stream live so to speak since. Best part is that if you use this with Hulu, it marks the adds for you. Also, I like having the ability to watch some shows sped up a little with VLC.

  • Just because you’re a paying customer doesn’t give you the right to flagrantly disregard copyright law.
    How does this differ from taping tv shows to VHS growing up? Or using a timeshift feature on your tv. Or using a PVR?

  • I would think if the library can find a way to allow you to borrow/download a digital copy of a book for X amount of days using a specific app, Netflix could do the same with their movies so you would be able to watch offline.

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