Netflix is an over-the-top content platform and production company founded in 1997 by entrepreneurs Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph.
During the late 1990s, video rental stores such as Blockbuster dominated the lucrative home entertainment market. But Hastings in particular became frustrated after forgetting to return a movie by the due date and having to pay a $40 fee. This frustration was compounded by the inconvenience of the rental process, with customers having to select and then return a rental to the store themselves.
Sensing a shift away from VHS to newer technologies, Netflix began as a rent-by-mail DVD service in April 1998. Initially, users browsed a list of movies on the Netflix website and then placed an order. Hasting and Randolph would then mail the DVDs, charging around $4 per movie plus $2 postage.
Netflix as a subscription service
Here, users paid a fixed monthly fee to rent as many movies as they liked. Importantly, there were no late fees. Netflix customers could return a movie whenever they wanted, but could not rent a new DVD until they posted the old one back.
This disruption to the movie rental industry was so swift that large players such as Blockbuster were caught unprepared. This was partly because customers loved Netflix, but also because Blockbuster failed to take advantage of new opportunities. When Hastings approached the company in 2000 about a partnership, then-CEO John Antioco famously laughed him off. That same year, Netflix introduced a personalized movie recommendation system using member ratings on past titles to predict future choices.
Between 1999 and 2003, Netflix built a customer base of 1 million subscribers. This doubled to 2 million in 2004 and then again to 4.2 million in 2005.
Netflix as a streaming service
Netflix introduced Watch Now in 2007, a streaming service allowing members to watch television shows and movies on their personal computers. The service started with a meager 1,000 titles and placed limits on the number of hours of free streaming.
In 2008, Netflix partnered with consumer electronics brands to allow streaming on video game consoles, Blu-ray players, and TV set-top boxes. In 2009, the company held a competition with $1 million in prize money to develop an algorithm better able to predict user content preferences.
Over the next few years, Netflix expanded into Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia, and the Caribbean. With 25 million members reached by 2012, a Netflix button started to be incorporated into TV remote controls.
Over-the-top content and production
So-called over-the-top content describes content offered directly to viewers via the internet.
Many Netflix television shows, documentaries, and movies have been funded and produced directly by the company to critical acclaim. The company has received many Emmy nominations and Academy Awards for programs such as House of Cards, ROMA, Godless, Orange is the New Black, and The Square.
- Netflix is an over-the-top content platform and production company founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in 1997. Hastings wanted to make the video rental industry more customer-friendly by abolishing late fees and making the rental process more convenient.
- Netflix signed up 1 million users to its DVD rental subscription service between 1999 and 2003. The company then released a streaming service in 2007.
- Netflix is a pioneer of self-produced, award-winning films and television shows. It is now available in multiple languages in most of the world’s countries.
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