One of the most popular streaming platforms worldwide with over 200 million paying subscribers, Netflix started as a DVD rental service in 1997. But that part of its history is coming to an end as it’ll ship the final DVDs on September 29, 2023, as the company has decided to pull the plug on the shrinking side of its business.
In 1997, co-founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph tested the concept “by mailing themselves a DVD” and then shipped the first title, Beetlejuice, on March 10, 1998, to a customer through Netflix.com.
In 1999, Netflix introduced a subscription service that offered people unlimited DVD rentals and shunned old industry practices of late fees, return dates or monthly limits. Next year, we saw the first edition of Netflix’s personalised recommendations and in 2003, the service hit the 1 million subscriber mark, with another four million added over the next three years.
DVDs were also the building blocks for Netflix Originals with titles like Sherrybaby and Zach Galifianakis Live at the Purple Onion released under the Red Envelope Entertainment. This led to the creation of popular shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Stranger Things, further cementing Netflix’s position as a major player in the entertainment industry.
“Those iconic red envelopes changed the way people watched shows and movies at home — and they paved the way for the shift to streaming. From the beginning, our members loved the choice and control that direct-to-consumer entertainment offered: the wide variety of the titles and the ability to binge-watch entire series,” said Ted Saranos, Co-CEO, Netflix.
In 2007, Netflix introduced its online streaming service, one that’s used widely globally today. Over the next decade, Netflix would expand to over 190 countries and be available in 21 languages to over 100 million subscribers. Currently, the number of paying Netflix subscribers stands north of 200 million but that number is constantly under threat from failing Original programming as well as an increasing number of rivals in the online streaming space.
However, given that DVDs hay days are long gone — so are DVD players — and only a few thousand people at the most would be leveraging Netflix’s age-old DVD subscription plan, it makes sense for Netflix to step away from them and divert all their resources into their streaming platform, which is the present and the future.
Here are some quick stats about Netflix’s DVD business.
- They shipped over 5.2 billion DVDs.
- Supported 20 main genres and 530 sub-genres.
- Boasted 40 million unique subscribers.
- The Blind Side was the most rented title.
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