Brock Willard editor in chief
Netflix has a had a long and illustrious career as a media production company, but they have been in some considerable hot water and that shows no signs of stopping.
Netflix started in 1997 as a media delivery service. Customers could order specific DVDs from the Netflix catalog and would receive them in the mail. Customers would then have a timeframe in which to watch them and then return them in the mail. I only go over this format in the company’s history because some may not even realize this existed. I can recall watching “Smallville” on ordered DVDs with my mother. For many, it was the first time they had access practically on demand to media. Before that, the digital family entertainment was largely governed by whatever the cable companies decided you were going to watch that evening. That was soon to change however as Netflix was ready to evolve into its 21st century form.
In 2007, Netflix launched its first foray into streaming services, a new environment at the time. It launched with approximately 1000 titles in its digital library, compared to the nearly 70,000 titles in its mail-order catalog. Netflix thought of this format as the future because they were investing in an actual box technology so that you could just plug it into your TV, sign in, and go. However, they halted development because they wanted to encourage tech developers to include Netflix support on their devices. This was a massive cost cutting move that pretty much secured their place in the digital marketplace.
As time went on, Netflix’s appeal only increased. They had an affordable price as compared to the hundreds of dollars a year that cable and satellite companies offered, they offered better selections, and most importantly, they offered no advertisements which was always considered a huge drawback in cable TV. Netflix was pretty much on top of the world for a period of time and this prosperity only increased when they ventured into original Netflix content. This allowed so much more freedom than what was possible on cable TV. On Netflix, there was no long list of regulations about what words you could and couldn’t use or stodgy producers saying “No, you can’t feature a gay couple on this show. It will lose us money.” Netflix’s business model was not based on ad revenue. It was based on pure volume of subscriptions and thus, they weren’t overly concerned with things like that.
The trouble came when Netflix started making some questionable choices in their business model.
The media giant started gradually increasing their prices. It would be a dollar increase once every year and a half, long enough that people wouldn’t really notice. Then, the catalog became more and more bare or would have titles that seemed to be niche interest only. Then, they signaled cracking down on account sharing which really started to be a problem for them. Many people fled the service for others which caused them to back track. The final death knells are ringing now as Netflix has signaled, they are planning on moving all their original content such as “Stranger Things” to a weekly release model much like the cable companies do that they were originally supposed to be an answer to. Much like Anakin Skywalker, he became the very thing they were meant to destroy.
What the future of Netflix looks like, it’s hard to say. Only time will tell, but ultimately, their decisions as a business in the marketplace of ideas will decide their fate more than anything else.