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Netflix adds downloads, girds for war with Amazon

And oh yeah, you can now pick and pay for only those TV channels you want, if anyone cares.

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Netflix Adds Downloads:

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Netflix dropped a surprising bomb on Wednesday with the announcement that it will allow its 80-million-plus subscribers to download its TV shows and movies for offline viewing.

It’s a surprise because the company has long pooh-poohed the idea, saying customers didn’t want it and that it would be too difficult to implement.

Things change when your feet are up to the proverbial fire, which is the case now that Amazon Prime Video is about to launch in 200 countries. Amazon still hasn’t confirmed it, but with much of the company’s video content already available in soft-launch mode, it’s pretty much inevitable.

Amazon has offered downloadable offline viewing of certain titles for some time now, so Netflix’s move is something of a catch-up – a rare position for the streaming pioneer to be in.

Just like Amazon, the company doesn’t have the licensing rights to make all of its content available for download, but all of its original material – including series such as Stranger Things, Luke Cage and the new season of Black Mirror – is there. Some third-party content – such as The Office and various Star Trek shows – is too.

This is fantastic news for subscribers who want to watch Netflix on a plane, on the beach or anywhere else devoid of wi-fi signals. It’s also great for subscribers in developing countries, where internet access can be patchy. They’ll be able to load up whenever they are connected.

It’s also a big stake into the figurative heart of piracy. Bittorrent has, till now, been the frequent flier’s best friend, so its use-case scenarios now take another hit. Similarly, Apple’s iTunes – which rents shows and movies on an a la carte basis – also becomes less useful.

Somewhat lost amid this news of streaming giants jockeying for position in the new streaming order is the fact that Canadians are also finally getting pick-and-pay channels from traditional television providers.

Some cable companies have been offering a la carte options for a while now, but new regulations require them to officially do so as of Dec. 1. The rules, along with the skinny basic packages mandated by the CRTC earlier this year, are intended to stem the flow of cable cancellations.

That’s wishful thinking. The new competitive arms race between Amazon and Netflix – two companies beloved by their customers – is likely to accelerate the move away from hated cable providers even more.

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