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Netflix allows subscribers to binge-watch shows offline

The Netflix logo is shown in this illustration photograph in Encinitas, California October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) - Video streaming pioneer Netflix Inc has added an option that allows subscribers to download shows at no additional cost on their mobile device to watch without an internet connection.

Netflix signaled in recent months it would add an offline viewing option to better compete as the streaming video market becomes more and more crowded. Inc’s rival streaming video service, Prime Video, has had this option for about a year.

While the new option announced on Wednesday is available for all of Netflix’s subscribers, it could have greater appeal in international markets such as Africa and Asia, where internet service is less ubiquitous than it is in the United States.

The international market is becoming the main driver of growth for Netflix. Of their 86.7 million subscribers, 47.5 million of them come from the United States.

Growth among U.S. subscribers has slowed in 2016. Netflix added just 370,000 subscribers during the third quarter and only 4.3 million since the third quarter of last year, suggesting they are reaching a saturation point.

In that same time frame, Netflix has added 13.2 million international subscribers, including 3.2 million in the third quarter. Much of that has to do with Netflix’s expansion by more than 130 countries earlier this year to over 190 nations currently. China is a notable holdout.

Not everything in Netflix’s vast library is available to download just yet, including the recently released “Gilmore Girls” revival. Currently available shows include Netflix-owned “Stranger Things,” “The Crown” and “Narcos” along with licensed shows and movies like “Parks and Recreation” and “Spotlight.”

"While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we've often heard they also want to continue their 'Stranger Things' binge while on airplanes and other places where Internet is expensive or limited," Eddy Wu, director of product innovation, wrote in a blog post.

The new feature is included in all plans and available for phones and tablets on Alphabet Inc's Android and Apple Inc's iOS platforms, the company said.

Netflix shares rose as much as 2.4 percent before it eased, up 0.1 percent to $117.62 on Wednesday on the Nasdaq.

The new option received widespread praise on social media Wednesday.

“You can now download stuff off Netflix to watch without internet,” wrote Twitter user kt (@Katie_Ottaway_), “what did we do to deserve this miracle.”

#NetflixOffline was also the top-trending hashtag on Twitter, worldwide.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Tim Baysinger and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Jeffrey Benkoe)