The new battle in the streaming video wars isn’t streaming at all.
Two of the market leaders in streaming video, Hulu and Netflix, are stepping up their investments in offline viewing, giving their subscribers access to their favorite shows even when they don’t have an internet connection available.
The latest news on that front? Smart Downloads from Netflix. Starting with Android-powered mobile devices this week, and expanding to Apple’s iOS later this year, Smart Downloads will automatically download the next episode of whatever show you are watching, so if you finish your current episode and then hop on the subway, you will still be able to watch on the ride home.
Once you are back on WiFi, Netflix will delete the previously downloaded episode and move on to the next one.
Currently, Netflix allows all of its original series to be downloaded for offline viewing, as well as some acquired programming. However, until now, the download process was a manual one, and could be confusing to some users.
Meanwhile, Hulu is approaching offline downloads a little bit differently. Hulu, which offers multiple tiers of service, including an entry-level offering supported by ads, is creating a new product that can incorporate advertising into offline downloads.
At its May upfront, Hulu announced its intention to create the product in time for the 2018-2019 season, adding that it was “a viewing experience never before available to advertisers.”
Hulu’s offline ad product is set to include targeted pre-, mid- and post-roll ads, and even the company’s ad selector, which lets users choose to watch an extended ad before the show in exchange for a commercial-break-free experience.
For both Netflix and Hulu, there is real investment in offline options --
consumer-friendly features that could give these services a leg up as the streaming video landscape becomes more crowded.