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Netflix Reportedly Testing Audio-Only Feature — Is the Streaming Service About to Compete with Podcasts?

Mohammed traore

Oct. 29, 2020

It’s quite possible that in the near future, you’ll be able to listen to your favorite Netflix shows without running down your phone battery or having to watch the screen. Indeed, the streaming service is reportedly in the testing phase of an “audio only” mode that would allow subscribers to merely listen to Netflix content while saving their data and phone battery, potentially positioning Netflix to move into the lucrative podcast realm and take up bandwidth.
The “audio only” mode test was first reported by XDA Developers (via Protocol ) who spotted related code lines in Netflix’s latest Android app. The move kind of makes sense as Netflix has a ton of stand-up comedy specials that could easily be enjoyed without video, but also as people tend to binge the same shows over and over to the point that they don’t necessarily need to look at the screen to know what’s happening. Let’s be honest, you’re looking at your phone at least half the time you’re watching The Office for the 17th go-around anyway, so why not cut with the pretense and just run the audio?
There’s no guarantee that this test will result in Netflix formally launching an audio only mode as a feature. They test a number of features that don’t move forward, as they only greenlight the ones that result in positive impacts on engagement and retention. Netflix is a repository – they want to be the place for everything – so if audio only mode doesn’t move towards that goal, it likely won’t become available to the public.
This is a fascinating turn of events, though, as podcasts have become omnipresent in the media realm. Netflix is already laser focused on original film and TV shows, so it would only make sense that their next empire to conquer would be the podcast realm. They’re not content with you just watching their service on your lunch break or at home – now they want to consume your life on your way to work, or maybe even possibly while you work. There’s also the possibility that this feature could make Netflix more accessible for the visually impaired, which would allow them to participate in the zeitgeist-dominating content.
It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. For more on the feature, check out Protocol’s full report. And if you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix, peruse our curated list of the 85 best movies on the streaming service right now .
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