Believe it or not, today, August 29, 2022, is the 25th anniversary of Netflix. That is the day Reed Hastings and Mark Randolph founded the company.
Back then, obviously, it wasn’t the video streaming powerhouse that it is now. There was no streaming video in 1997, unless you count my grandfather’s collection of VHS tapes on fly fishing. Instead, the company was built by shipping DVDs through the mail.
Netflix originally sold Y they rented DVDs by mail, but became famous for their rental business. Customers paid a monthly subscription and, in return, received all the DVDs they could watch directly to their mailbox. The standard plan was to put out three albums at once. Every time you sent one in one of those little red envelopes that used to be everywhere but now hardly exist, the company would send you a new movie back for you to watch from the top of the list of titles you wanted on their site.
Its big selling point at the time was that, unlike renting from a chain like Blockbuster, Netflix didn’t charge late fees if you forgot to return something. (Of course not; I was paying a monthly subscription fee.) Here’s an old commercial from 2004 showing how things used to work:
Does this poor guy in this commercial apparently live on a couch across the street from a big box video store? Do you feel he should have higher priorities than having the DVDs mailed to his house? If he wanted, he could just get off the couch, walk across the street, and rent whatever he wanted from the video store. But whatever.
Netflix began offering streaming movies over the Internet in 2007. By 2011, that side of the business had grown so large that they announced plans to spin off their DVD-by-mail business into a new company called Qwikster, a name so silly and so widely derided. , sounds like something I would make up as a joke. A few months later, Netflix changed course and decided to continue with DVDs by mail. If you are so inclined, you can yet get DVDs from Netflix to this day. (The company now owns the DVD.com website and uses it as its disc rental hub.)
What does the future hold for Netflix? The streaming business that they pioneered has now become one of the competitive spaces in all of entertainment. (Netflix recently posted a quarterly subscriber loss for the first time in years.) They’ve also expanded into new areas like game streaming, but at least so far that business hasn’t exploded in the same way their streaming video concept did in the late 2000s. Maybe hearing Netflix now has 25 years will make people so nostalgic for those little red envelopes that they dust off their DVD players and start renting discs again.
Here is a video Netflix made to celebrate their anniversary:
Netflix’s Most Popular English TV Shows
These are the most popular TV shows on Netflix (in English), based on hours watched in the first 28 days of streaming.