I love offline mode on Netflix and Disney Plus, so why doesn't it work properly?

Netflix downloads page on a mobile phone
(Image credit: Netflix)

2023 has easily been the year I've travelled most post-pandemic, with a combination of holidays and press trips meaning that I've been through more airports than I care to count within the last 10 months. That's fine by me, as I'm an avid traveller and actually quite enjoy flying, but there's been one bugbear that has plagued quite literally every flight I've taken this year. 

Let me set the scene. Usually the night before I fly, I like to peruse the various offerings found on Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video and download the options that look like they'll help me occupy my time on the asphalt and in the air. Once I set my shows and movies to download overnight, I expect them to be ready to go once I'm in flight (especially as I refuse to pay for the extortionate onboard wi-fi). However, each and every time I'm met with the same message: "Download failed." For reference, I'm using the iOS and iPadOS versions of the apps, so this could well be an issue with these versions of the apps – but nonetheless, it's frustrating. 

Why? What could have possibly stopped this download from completing; my phone has been connected to a stable internet connection all night, and it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to download a few episodes of a TV show. For some reason, Netflix and Disney Plus are the two most egregious to me, as despite their slick UI, they can't seem to manage a relatively easy task. 

Unfortunately, this extends to music streaming services too. As a last-ditch effort, I've attempted to listen to a few of the latest album releases that I'd set to download over mobile data or airport wi-fi, only to be met with just a single track being downloaded, or better yet the entire album being greyed out as not a single track has been downloaded; Spotify and Tidal are both guilty of this.

So what's the solution? The only thing I've found that works so far is practically supervising the download until completion, hitting that retry button every time the download pauses or fails. That's both irritating and not feasible, as I have much better things to be doing with my time than overseeing the download of a TV show. Moreover, I shouldn't have to do that, as this feature should just work ideally. 

Perhaps this is a case-by-case issue, and not widespread, but all that I can hope is that I'll have something to watch on my next flight. The very bottom line is that such a simple process shouldn't be so frustrating, so I urge every streaming company to second-look their respective downloads system to avoid customer frustration.


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Lewis Empson
Staff Writer

Lewis Empson is a Staff Writer on What Hi-Fi?. He was previously Gaming and Digital editor for Cardiff University's 'Quench Magazine', Lewis graduated in 2021 and has since worked on a selection of lifestyle magazines and regional newspapers. Outside of work, he enjoys gaming, gigs and regular cinema trips.

  • soulsonic34
    Totally get that! I have the same issue with Netflix. You've got an eye on the download though Netflix has gotten better