Is Netflix about to take over the podcast space?

Abby Robinson
·3-min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

The Netflix that we're all familiar with today has come to pass through a series of tests.

The media giant has carried out extensive experimentation ever since it launched its video streaming service back in 2007. From a shuffle feature to giving subscribers the option to alter playback speed, it's always on the move.

Like football teams who don't add to their squads during transfer windows, if Netflix stayed still they'd risk falling behind.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Vast numbers of those tests remain just that: a pilot, or a try-out.

They don't demonstrate any substantial benefit and are never rolled out as permanent fixtures.

But there's always the possibility that they might, and one of the latest trials has caught our eye for that very reason.

According to XDA Developers, a platform created by developers, for developers, Netflix is playing around with an audio-only feature.

Instead of both picture and sound, you'd just get the latter, which is essentially a podcast or an audio book.

"Save your data by turning off the video and listening to your favourite shows," reads the code picked up on the latest version of its Android app. "The video is off, but you can continue listening to your show while you are busy doing other things."

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

If you're watching a series for the very first time, that's obviously not a function you'd choose to explore. But for those comfort shows that you've watched more times than you'd care to admit, or even know, being able to listen while you walk or wash the dishes, for example, could appeal to some.

Still, even if you know what the character's movements are without seeing them on-screen, we can't imagine many people engaging with that feature.

But what about content created specifically to be listened to, and not watched?

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The podcast space has exploded during the past decade, largely in part through true crime deep dives, but there are award-winning titles to suit every interest, mood and occasion.

The scope for storytelling is substantial and Netflix, being in the business of storytelling, could be weighing up a potential move into that market.

There are myriad true-crime documentaries and series on Netflix, from Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer to The Staircase, which had both been explored on podcasts before being spun into series for the streamer.

They worked on Netflix, but they were also extremely engaging pieces of content without any visuals, relying solely on spoken word, sound effects and music to paint the picture.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

And it's not just true crime that lends itself to this approach.

Stand-up comedy and long-form interviews and conversation, such as My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman, could also work, too.

It would be a bold move for Netflix, but one that could feasibly work if what's on offer is compelling enough. It would also be a more cost-effective endeavour, and a safer one in the age of Covid.

And as previously mentioned, there's the added bonus that it would use less of your data and preserve your phone's battery life, which are both strong selling points.

Whether the execs pulling the strings will take the plunge and invest in further trials, however, remains to be seen.

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