“What did we do before Netflix?!”

In this day and age we have virtually everything at our finger tips. Waiting for that important email? Just check your phone. Can’t figure out what song is playing right now? Just ask Siri. Can’t sit and wait for that next episode? Just use Netflix on your phone, computer, tablet, or TV. We are obsessed with having things at instant speed and we often take these amenities for granted.


Lets take a step back now. I’m sure many of you can recall a time before smart phones, apple watches, hover boards, and the like, and while it may be hard to imagine today, we did have a time before the dawn of Netflix.

Technology has come a long way in regards to entertainment. With streaming and on-demand technology, we can binge-watch show after show whenever and wherever we want. But before we had things like Netflix, we had things like Blockbuster and before Blockbuster we had things like the VCR tape.

The oldest trick in the book for getting to watch your favorite movies and shows on your own terms (other than actually going out and buying the movie) was using the Video Cassette Recorder, aka the VCR. With VCR tapes you could record your favorite movies as they aired on live television.

Up until the early 2000s Blockbuster dominated the industry as one the biggest video-rental stores in the world. (The New Yorker). You were able to walk into the store, browse the selections, and rent virtually any movie or game you could think of. Sounds like a dream, right? The only downside however, was that more often than not you got slammed with a late fee for not returning the rental after a short period of time.



With millions of customers and thousands of locations it’s executives felt secure in the fact that they were doing business right. But, what they were doing wrong was penalizing it’s customers with up to hundreds of dollars in late fees. (Forbes).One disgruntled customer in particular was current co-founer and CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings. After racking up a good amount of late fees for not returning his DVDs in time, Hastings thought of a better way to rent videos- the Internet.

So in 1997 Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph changed video-on-demand technology forever by starting the company we now know today, Netflix.

By 1998 Netflix launches the first ever DVD rental site (Netflix.com) and by 1999, they debut their subscription service that offers unlimited DVDs for one monthly payment. Since they didn’t have physical store locations, they were able to save a lot of money, and therefore, offer their customers much more at much lower prices. Only a short 6 years later they had 4.2 million members, showing how quickly this company grew and how useful and convenient it became to our society. People loved it!

Even with several million members, the major downside to Netflix was how long you needed to wait before you could watch that movie you had in your queue. Sure you could rent an unlimited amount of DVDs, but if you were in the mood to watch Reservoir Dogs you needed to wait a few days before it got to your house, and by that point, you probably weren’t as eager to watch it as you were a few days ago. Netflix

This made 2007 a true game changer as Netflix introduced streaming. This allowed it’s members to watch the movies and shows offered online right on their own computers, INSTANTLY. While renting movies through the mail was still an option, the convenience and benefits of streaming were insurmountable in comparison. This was unheard of and a huge turning point for the company’s success. Blockbuster went bankrupt only a short few years later.

In the next coming years Netflix works with other electronic companies to allow their streaming technology on video game consoles, like PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii, on Smart TVs, and on many handheld devices such as the iPad, iPod, Tablet, etc. Now people were able to bring Netflix with them wherever they go and had the instant gratification of watching what they wanted, when they wanted. As of today, Netflix is officially available worldwide. (About Netflix)

While Netflix has obviously made a huge impact in video-on-demand and streaming technologies, it is now impacting television as well. For decades TV has been “top-dog,” but with Netflix allowing people to pause, rewind, and watch their favorite shows and movies  without commercial interruption (a major key), television is seeing a drastic decline. Many people these days don’t even subscribe to cable anymore because they can just use Netflix for a much cheaper monthly payment. (Cable Penetration Continues to Drop).

Television is still going strong with sports, events, and network exclusive shows, as the only way to watch these types of things are on live television (typically).  However, I’m interested in finding out how much longer that will last, or if TV will eventually become obsolete. As I see it, Netflix is beating out lots of competition and making huge impacts on the way we entertain ourselves, but who knows, maybe something new will come along in our ever-changing, tech-driven society.




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