Netflix Is Finally Ending Its Mail-Order DVD Service

Netflix has announced that it will shutter its DVD rental service after a 25-year run. Over the course of its DVD rental business, the company claims to have shipped over 5.2 billion DVDs covered in its iconic red envelopes. The streaming giant says it will ship its final cache of DVDs on September 29, 2023. Netflix was reportedly born after a chance carpool meeting between co-founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph. It was back in 1998 that the standalone website came up, allowing users to log in, pick up a rental DVD, and get it delivered to their doorsteps at a fixed price. You can still sneak a peel at one of the first screengrabs of the ancient Netflix site and marvel at its magazine-cum-newspaper ad design.

It was only a year later that the company started a subscription service starting at roughly $15 per month. In the summer of the same year, Hastings and Randolph got a call from Amazon informing them that Jeff Bezos wanted to meet. "We went into that office and it was a pigsty," Randolph told CNBC. The deal never materialized, primarily because Bezos offered them somewhere in the low eight figures" for the entire company. Years later, Amazon would launch its own streaming behemoth called Prime Video which is currently one of Netflix's biggest rivals.

Closing the chapter on a relic of past

On May 22, 2002, Netflix became a publicly listed company through an initial public offering, entering the Wall Street fray at $15 per share. As of press time, Netflix shares are trading at over $330, less than half of their peak value in late 2021. Early in its career, Netflix also knocked at the doors of Blockbuster with an acquisition offer worth $50 million, but CEO John Antioco rejected it, claiming that "the dot-com hysteria is completely overblown."

In 2011, Netflix announced plans to spin off its DVD rental business into a separate company called Qwiskter, while the streaming division would retain the main branding. Just few weeks later, Netflix made a reversal. The real course-altering pivot already happened in 2007, when Netflix began streaming, starting with a video-on-demand service with an initial catalog of around 1,000 titles. The rest, as they say, is history.

After breakout hits like "House of Cards," Netflix turned its attention to original programming and forever changed the course of television. Awards started piling in, and the company doubled down on producing original movies. A pivot to branded gaming content soon followed, and soon after the TikTok boom, a dedicated feed of Netflix snippets was also served. Amidst all the success and heating competition, Netflix started to feel the sting of password sharing (which it once loved), and like clockwork, gouged the subscription price and also imposed limits on account sharing.