Netflix’s History, From DVDs to Embattled Hollywood Disrupter
1998: Netflix launches a DVD-by-mail rental service. That same year, Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos offers to buy the company.
In his book “That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea,” Randolph wrote that he and Hastings met with Bezos in 1998, who offered them “probably something between $14 million and $16 million,” Randolph wrote. But they turned down the offer.
2002: Netflix goes public. Randolph exits the company soon after.
“As you get older, if you’re lucky, you realize two things: what you like, but also what you’re good at,” Randolph told Forbes in 2019 on why he left Netflix. “The answer to both of them [for me] is early-stage companies. I like the chaos. I like the fact that you’re working on hundreds of things at once.”
2007: Netflix launches a video streaming service, free for its already-existing DVD-rental subscribers.
Netflix ended 2006 with over 6 million subscribers for its DVD-rental service. But A New York Times story at the time highlighted how the company still faced doubts about its streaming plans, noting that it would cost Netflix $40 million to implement and its stock dropped 6 percent with the announcement. Hastings said at the time that he had “gotten used to it,” regarding reservations.
2012: Netflix debuts “Lilyhammer,” its first original series. The show was originally broadcast in Norway, but Netflix acquired the rights. It laid the foundation for Netflix’s binge-release model and its surge in original programming, including expanding into international markets.
“This was the first time we streamed a show across multiple countries and languages … and it worked,” Netflix’s current coCEO Ted Sarandos wrote in a blog post in February.
“It worked because it was a deeply local story that we could share with the world,” Sarandos added.
2018: Netflix wins its first feature-film Oscar, for best documentary feature for “Icarus.” Later this year, it releases “Roma,” which becomes Netflix’s first best-picture nominee the following year.
Netflix has yet to nab the Oscars’ top prize, though, despite elaborate campaign spending. Apple TV+ won best picture this year for “CODA,” becoming the first streaming platform to do so.
April, 2022: Netflix reports that it lost subscribers for the first time in a decade in the first quarter of 2022. It lost 200,000 subscribers, and said it was expecting to lose 2 million more in Q2.
Aside from the economic strains of the coronavirus pandemic, Netflix blamed the subscriber loss partly on password sharing. It said that it estimated that an additional 100 million people on top of its 220 million subscribers use Netflix with a shared password.
It also acknowledged increased competition. Over the last few years, new streaming services like Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, and more entered the space on top of already existing rivals like Hulu and Prime Video.
April, 2022: Hastings confirms that an ad-supported tier is coming to Netflix.
Hastings confirmed during Netflix’s April earnings call that the company plans to roll out an ad-supported plan, something it has pushed back against in the past, as the streaming service faces slowing revenue growth and loses subscribers. It’s something that other streamers have embraced, like HBO Max and Paramount+. Disney+, its biggest rival, is also planning to launch an ad-supported option.
Netflix’s standard HD plan (its most popular plan) is $15.49 per month after the company recently raised prices. It makes it the most expensive streaming service, topping HBO Max’s $14.99 ad-free plan.
Netflix said during its July earnings report that it intends to launch the ad-based plan in early 2023. Bloomberg reported in August that it could cost anywhere from $7 to $9.
May and June, 2022: Netflix conducts layoffs amid slowing revenue growth.
Netflix laid off 150 staffers in May, and then 300 more in June.
“While we continue to invest significantly in the business, we made these adjustments so that our costs are growing in line with our slower revenue growth,” a Netflix spokesperson said of the most recent round of layoffs.
July 2022: Netflix loses subscribers for the second quarter in a row, a first for the company.
In Q2 2022, Netflix said it lost 970,000 subscribers. It had forecasted losing 2 million subscribers in the quarter, so it beat expectations — but it was still a sign of company’s struggles, and proved why it is introducing an ad-based plan and cracking down on password sharing.
Netflix is optimistic about Q3, though, and forecasted adding 1 million subscribers.