Long before entertainment companies transformed the TV landscape, most people resorted to downloading torrents from various sources. In fact, this never ceased even after streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix were launched. Reason? Quite obviously, ‘torrenting’ allows you enjoy media without having an access to the internet. Once you have downloaded the content, it is yours to keep. Sounds convenient right? Unfortunately, given that it is illegal, users are always at the risk of receiving a notice from the DMCA, followed by hefty fines and possibly, imprisonment. And let’s say that you’re totally safe from ever being caught, courtesy VPN services, the authorities will track down the host sites, sooner or later. So eventually, when you don’t have a source, you wouldn’t have content!
Thankfully, these some of the streaming services have recognized the pain points of those who’re looking to get their dose of entertainment, offline. In 2015, Amazon Prime Video introduced offline playback. And last year, Netflix followed suit by offering the same feature on their platform, albeit, on select titles. An interesting thing to note is that shortly before introducing the “downloading” option, Netflix COO expressed in an interview that they had no plans of embracing the same. Well, we’re glad that they retracted on that.
If you wish to know more about the aforementioned feature, read on!
Prerequisites for Downloading Content on Netflix –
Before we tell you how to get around to downloading content, let’s take a quick glance at some of the conditions you’ll need to meet in order to get started.
- A Supported Device: First of all, you’ll need a device that is compatible with the Netflix app. Currently, you can avail the feature on Apple iOS devices (iOS 9 or later) including iPhones and iPads and Android-run smartphones or tablets (Android 4.4.2 or later). Alternatively, you can even use computers and tablets operated by Windows 10. As of now, the number of supported devices/platforms is quite limited but hopefully in future Netflix will expand this list.
- Netflix Membership: If you don’t already have a Netflix account, you can log onto their website (provided the service is available in your country) and select a suitable plan depending upon your “simultaneous screens” and “video-quality” preferences. Then, register an account by entering your email address, password, and payment details. And voila! You’re now a Netflix subscriber!
- Netflix App: Unfortunately, the “downloading” feature is only available on the Netflix app, and not on the web interface. This means that you’ll have to first install the app on your device. For that, you’ll have to go to the App Store or the Google Play Store (depending upon which device you’re using), and download the app. In case you’re using a Windows device, choose “Store” under the task bar or Start menu and begin downloading. If you already have the app, make sure that it is updated to the latest version.
- Plenty of Space: You’re perhaps aware that full-length feature films and TV series take up a huge amount of space. A movie downloaded in Standard Definition can take up to 500 MB of storage whereas in High Definition it would consume roughly 750 MB. Note that this differs from movie to movie since they’re not always the same length. As far as TV shows are concerned, a single 50-minute-long episode may take up about 200 MB in SD and close to 315 MB in HD. Don’t forget to free up enough space on your device before you start downloading content.
- Internet Connection: Watching a downloaded movie/show does not require you to have an internet connection but downloading content does. The data consumption is about the same as if you were to stream the title, i.e. around 1 GB/hour for SD quality and up to 3 GB/hour for HD quality.
How to Download a Title on Netflix?
Coming to the crux of this article, here’s a fairly comprehensive guide on downloading a movie or a TV show using the Netflix app:
- Pick a Title: The bad news is that Netflix has not made all the titles “download-able”. The good news is that, it still has a massive library of titles (both movies and TV shows) which can be downloaded for offline viewing. If you’re looking for a specific title, simply key it in using the search bar. If it is available for download, you’ll see a small download icon (a downward arrow) next to the “share” button, under the plot brief. Can’t see it? That means that the selected content cannot be downloaded and has to be streamed only. For a smoother experience, Netflix has created a separate category called “Available for Download” which you can find by tapping the hamburger-style menu icon on the top-left corner, under the “Home” tab. It’ll pull up a page with all the movies and series that can be downloaded. We’ll come to that in just a bit.
- Tap the Download Icon: Once you have taken your pick, simply tap the download icon as described above. It’ll begin downloading immediately and pop-up a progress bar right at the bottom, showing you how much of the title has been downloaded. In our experience, it took literally less than two minutes to download an hour-long episode of Breaking Bad. A movie might take several minutes longer. This is still faster than most torrent clients which may take up to an hour to download one movie, at about the same speed.
- Watching a Downloaded Title: Once it has finished downloading the title, it’ll display a “Download Complete” message on the progress bar. You can either tap on it to play the title right then, or head over to the “My Downloads” section under the main menu for enjoying it at a later time. Aside from the most recently downloaded title, it’ll show you all the past downloads if applicable. Note that for watching a TV series, you’ll have to first tap on the series and then choose the episode.
How to Select the Download Video Resolution?
Netflix offers two video qualities in which to download a title –
- Standard: This is a lower resolution but downloads content faster and is good enough for small devices such as handsets.
- Higher: This downloads titles in up to 1080p/HD quality and is better for larger screened devices such as tablets and computers. But obviously, it is much slower as far as download speed is concerned.
You can choose either of them, depending upon which device you’re using and how much space you have left in your device. As mentioned earlier, videos in HD quality take up significantly larger amounts of space.
In order to select the video quality, simply tap on the menu and click on “App Settings”. Then, tap the “Downloads” tab and adjust the video quality. Note that if you have an Android device that is incapable of playing videos in HD, you may not have the option of setting the video quality to Higher.
What Titles Are Available for Download?
If you’re a fan of Netflix Originals, you’re in luck because all the Netflix Original titles (movies and TV series) are available for downloading. Some of the most popular ones include Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, House of Cards, Okja, Stranger Things, Sense8, Mascots, and Narcos. Other non-Netflix produced TV series available are Vikings, Breaking Bad, Riverdale, Gotham, Bates Motel, and Suits. You can even download big-banner films such as Ted 2, The Boy, Minions, Jurassic World, Lucy, Lord of the Rings, Fast and Furious, and Now You See Me. There are plenty more but obviously, they all cannot be listed here so go check out the “Available for Download” catalogue, now!
Is There a Way to Download Other Titles?
Despite offering a great selection, regular entertainment watchers may often feel disappointed when a title doesn’t display the download icon underneath. What does one do then? Well, there’s a way to get around this limitation. All you have to do is download and install a third-party screen recording/capture app on your device, launch it and have Netflix opened in your browser. Make sure that you select the “Full Screen” option in order to capture the whole video.
You can choose from both, free and paid apps. Some of the most well-known android apps are AZ Screen Recorder, Mobizen, and SCR Screen Recorder. The most popular ones for iOS include Airshou, Vidyo, and BB Recorder. If you’re using a Windows computer, you can get the CamStudio. You can even record on your computer and transfer the file to your handsets later.
One major drawback is that you’ll need to play the title from beginning till the end, without pausing, for it to record properly. Also, this method is not a legit one, so do it at your own risk!
How to Delete Downloaded Titles?
As you might be aware, movies and TV shows eat up a lot of space so once you’re done watching them, its best to free up your space by deleting some or all of the downloaded titles. Here’s how:
- Deleting a Specific Title: Go to “Menu” and tap “My Downloads”. Then, select “Edit” from the upper-right corner and hit the delete button to get rid of it. Note that Netflix does not prompt a confirmation box before deleting a title so take your time and do it.
- Deleting All the Titles: Choose “App Settings” from the menu located at the upper-left corner of the app screen. Tap “Delete all Downloads”. It’ll show a confirmation screen. Select “Delete” and that’s it; it’ll all be gone.
The Big Caveat:
As with any service/feature, the Netflix download feature too comes with its own set of drawbacks. The most important one to remember is that if Netflix removes a particular title from its library, it will cease to appear under “My Downloads”. Note that you cannot export downloaded content to external storage such as Hard Drives.
For the times when you don’t have an access to the internet or simply don’t wish to use data, the download feature on Netflix serves as the perfect solution. If you have 1-2 hours to kill on an aircraft or at a hotel room, watching a downloaded movie/TV show is the best way to avoid boredom. Even when you have some free time to spare at your workplace, watching downloaded content on Netflix is the best way to go, without your boss yelling at you for consuming extra data. However, remember to plan this in advance and download titles beforehand as you’ll still need the internet for that.