Some luminary—I forget who—once said, “I just read Playboy for the interviews.” Not sure whether his tongue was planted firmly in cheek when he said that, but it’s highly probable.
In a similar vein, I might contemplate Amazon Prime thusly: “I just use Amazon Prime for the free shipping.” Of course, like the previous quote, that would not quite be true, either.
Last year, after frequent email promotions from Amazon, I decided to check out some of the programming that the Prime streaming library offers.
As a tried and true Netflix binge watcher, I wondered if there was really much in the way of added value on Prime.
Turns out, there’s quite a bit. Although there is significant duplication in the streaming video department with Netflix, I found some worthy original and other content available only on Prime.
I also watched two seasons of Alpha House, Amazon’s political comedy set in and around Washington, D.C.
In addition, Amazon Prime features a huge catalog of PBS dramas, which aren’t all available on Netflix.
Now Amazon is adding even more value, and it’s a trick that no other streaming service that I’m aware of offers.
Amazon now allows Prime subscribers to download some video content—movies and TV shows—to their laptops, tablets, or smartphones for offline viewing.
Offline viewing means that you can watch these digital programs when your device is not connected to the Internet.
Of course, with anything that involves the highly controlling world of Hollywood, only those programs for which the copyright holders have given Amazon permission can be downloaded.
Still, it’s something. Another small step toward a brave new world of entertainment that will actually, first and foremost, benefit consumers.
And, since Amazon produces a fair amount of its own content, its shows are included among those that can be viewed offline.
How it works
On your desktop or laptop computer, you can simply browse to Amazon’s streaming library, and find titles that you want to download for offline viewing.
To illustrate how offline viewing works, I’ll use the example of an iPad Air 2, which is my tablet of choice. Open up the Amazon Video app, and you’re presented with this screen:
Click Start Watching, and browse Amazon content as you would normally:
A great many of the available titles are available for download. I noticed that even HBO titles were available, although, as an alternative example, Breaking Bad, the superlative AMC series, was available for viewing, but not for download.
In my initial trial, I selected Amazon’s new series, Hand of God. As I suspected, it was available for offline viewing.
When you see a Download button, or in the case of a series, the Download icon, the episode is available for offline viewing. Click the icon, and you’re off and running:
When the download is completed, a little checkmark appears next to the episode:
The episode is now available for offline viewing.
There is a time limit to how long the content remains on your device for offline viewing, which varies. Amazon states that a notice will appear on your device warning that the offline content will be expiring soon.
Other than that, the only limitation is how much storage you have on your device. Video content can take up a lot of disk space.
What’s the big deal?
Still, there are times when offline viewing will be useful. For me, air travel is a big one. If I am on an airplane, crossing the country or an ocean, it’s nice to have diversion.
Normally, I rent movies from iTunes, at $4.99 or $5.99 a clip. It’s nice to be able to watch a movie or two on a long flight. It makes travel easier, and god knows, airline travel ranks right up there with being forced to watch paint dry.
Amazon has used its clout with content owners, and has provided a technological solution that protects copyrighted material while truly serving customers.
That’s a win-win.