Netflix's initial business model included DVD sales and rental by mail, but Hastings abandoned the sales about a year after the company's founding to focus on the initial DVD rental business.
Netflix, Inc. is an American content platform and production company headquartered in Los Gatos, California. Netflix was founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in Scotts Valley, California. The company's primary business is a subscription-based streaming service offering online streaming from a library of films and television series, including those produced in-house. In January 2021, Netflix reached 203.7 million subscribers, including 73 million in the United States. It is available worldwide except in the following: mainland China (due to local restrictions), Syria, North Korea, and Crimea (due to US sanctions). It was reported in 2020 that Netflix's operating income is $1.2 billion. The company has offices in France, Brazil, the Netherlands, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Netflix is a member of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), producing and distributing content from countries all over the globe.
Netflix's initial business model included DVD sales and rental by mail, but Hastings abandoned the sales about a year after the company's founding to focus on the initial DVD rental business. Netflix expanded its business in 2007 with the introduction of streaming media while retaining the DVD and Blu-ray rental business. The company expanded internationally in 2010 with streaming available in Canada, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. Netflix entered the content-production industry in 2013, debuting its first series House of Cards.
Since 2012, Netflix has taken more of an active role as producer and distributor for both film and television series, and to that end, offers a variety of "Netflix Original" content through its online library. By January 2016, Netflix services operated in more than 190 countries. Netflix released an estimated 126 original series and films in 2016, more than any other network or cable channel. Their efforts to produce new content, secure the rights for additional content, and diversify through 190 countries have resulted in the company racking up billions in debt: $21.9 billion as of September 2017, up from $16.8 billion from the previous year. $6.5 billion of this is long-term debt, with the remainder in long-term obligations. In October 2018, Netflix announced it would raise another $2 billion in debt to help fund new content. On July 10, 2020, Netflix became the largest entertainment/media company by market capitalization.
Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings founded Netflix on August 29, 1997 in Scotts Valley, California. Randolph worked as a marketing director for Hastings's company, Pure Atria. Randolph had co-founded MicroWarehouse, a computer mail-order company; Borland International later employed him as vice president of marketing. Hastings, a computer scientist and mathematician, sold Pure Atria to Rational Software Corporation in 1997 for $700 million in what was then the biggest acquisition in Silicon Valley history. The two came up with the idea for Netflix when commuting between their homes in Santa Cruz and Pure Atria's headquarters in Sunnyvale while waiting for government regulators to approve the merger, although Hastings has given several different explanations for how the idea came about.
Hastings invested $2.5 million in startup cash for Netflix. Randolph admired the fledgling e-commerce company Amazon and wanted to find a large category of portable items to sell over the Internet using a similar model. Hastings and Randolph considered and rejected VHS tapes as too expensive to stock and too delicate to ship. When they heard about DVDs, first introduced in the United States on March 24, 1997, they tested the concept of selling or renting DVDs by mail by mailing a compact disc to Hastings's house in Santa Cruz. When the disc arrived intact, they decided to take on the $16 billion home-video sales and rental industry. Hastings is often quoted saying that he decided to start Netflix after being fined $40 at a Blockbuster store for being late to return a copy of Apollo 13, but he and Randolph designed this apocryphal story to explain the company's business model and motivation.
Netflix launched as the world's first online DVD-rental store, with only 30 employees and 925 titles available—almost the entire catalogue of DVDs at the time—using the pay-per-rent model, with rates and due dates similar to those of its brick-and-mortar competitor, Blockbuster.
Membership fee, Blockbuster acquisition offer, growth start
Netflix introduced the monthly subscription concept in September 1999, and then dropped the single-rental model in early 2000. Since that time (see Technical details of Netflix), the company has built its reputation on the business model of flat-fee unlimited rentals without due dates, late fees, shipping and handling fees, or per-title rental fees.
In 2000, when Netflix had just about 300,000 subscribers and relied on the US Postal Service for the delivery of their DVDs, their losses would total $57 million and offered to be acquired by Blockbuster for $50 million. They proposed that Netflix, which would be renamed as Blockbuster.com, would handle the online business, while Blockbuster would take care of the DVDs, making them less dependent on the US Postal Service. The offer was declined.
While they experienced fast growth in early 2001, both the dot-com bubble burst and the September 11 attacks occurred later that year, affecting the company badly and forcing them to lay off one-third of their 120 employees. However, sales of DVD players finally took off as they became more affordable, selling for about $200 around Thanksgiving time, becoming one of that year's most popular Christmas gifts. By early 2002, Netflix saw a huge increase in their subscription business.
Netflix initiated an initial public offering (IPO) on May 29, 2002, selling 5.5 million shares of common stock at the price of US$15.00 per share. On June 14, 2002, the company sold an additional 825,000 shares of common stock at the same price. After incurring substantial losses during its first few years, Netflix posted its first profit during the fiscal year 2003, earning US$6.5 million profit on revenues of US$272 million. In 2005, 35,000 different films were available, and Netflix shipped 1 million DVDs out every day.
Randolph, a dominant producer and board member for Netflix, retired from the company in 2004.
Netflix was sued in 2004 for false advertising in relation to claims of "unlimited rentals" with "one-day delivery".