Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Mike Segar/REUTERS


Amazon just announced a video streaming perk that Netflix has sworn it would never allow.

If you’re one of the approximately 40 to 60 million people who pay for Prime, Amazon’s $99-a-year membership club, you can now download movies and TV shows on your smartphone or tablet for offline viewing.

This is really handy if you’re taking a plane trip and don’t want to pay for Wi-Fi, or you know you’re going to be somewhere else where wireless is not available.

Previously, Amazon only offered this feature for people who owned one of its line of Fire tablets, but it now applies to Android and Apple devices too. Not all of the video on Amazon Prime Video is available for offline viewing, but a pretty hefty selection is (check out the list here).

Late last year, a Netflix exec told TechRadar that offline viewing was “never going to happen” for its service. Netflix argues that being able to download videos for offline viewing is a short-term fix for the long-term problem of spotty Wi-fi availability.

A Netflix spokesperson confirms that it doesn’t plan on offering offline viewing:

“With Internet speeds climbing and WiFi available in more and more places, the ability to stream live wherever you are will make downloading less relevant over time. Our focus is on delivering a great streaming experience.”

For Amazon, it’s all about driving retail

This capability is Amazon’s latest attempt to make its membership club more attractive. After Amazon spent more than $100 million on original video content last year, CEO Jeff Bezos put it bluntly when talking about Prime’s award-winning show “Transparent”: Amazon is the first company to use a Golden Globe to sell toilet paper.

In other words, Amazon loses a lot of money on the TV and music streaming services, but it has built them up to make Prime more addictive. Users are more likely to fork over the big bucks if they already pay for Prime: Members may spend more than double on the site per year than non-members do, according to an analysis from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners in January.

Although Amazon Prime Video still doesn’t offer as many options as Netflix, the company made sure to highlight the fact that some of the movies available for offline streaming — like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” — are ones that Netflix will be losing because it didn’t renew its five-year deal with Epix, a cable network that previously allowed the service to offer a bunch of blockbuster films.

As reported by Business Insider