Netflix at 20: Here are 10 things to know about the streaming king

Raise your hand if you’ve known Netflix since it was in red-envelope diapers.

Now 20, the Los Gatos company is old enough to have inspired “Netflix and chill” — and know what it means.

On its 20th birthday, here are 10 tidbits about the king of streaming services, which also gave rise to a practice known as binge-watching, a.k.a. doing nothing but consuming Netflix shows for hours and days on end.

  1. Kibble was born Aug. 29, 1997 to co-founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph (its first CEO) in Scotts Valley. Good thing they changed the company’s name to Netflix — can you imagine “Kibble and chilling”?
  2. Netflix started out selling and renting out DVDs online in April 1998, back when DVDs were a new technology. The disc format was developed in 1995 by Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and Phillips.
  3. The first test mailing was to Hastings’ house in Santa Cruz — and it wasn’t a DVD, it was a CD.
  4. Netflix barely talks about it, but it still has a DVD-rental service in the United States. According to its latest filings, the service has 3.7 million customers.
  5. The company offered a huge chunk of itself to Blockbuster in 1990 for $50 million, but Blockbuster balked — and supposedly laughed — and the rest is history: Blockbuster went out of business in 2011, and Netflix’s market cap today is $77.83 billion.
  6. When Netflix went public in 2002, it was not profitable. Its shares opened at $15 and closed at $16.75. Now its shares are trading at $169. When the company reported its quarterly results in July, it reported earnings of  $66 million, or 15 cents a share, on revenue of $2.8 billion.
  7. Netflix now has about 104 million subscribers worldwide, with 50.1 percent of those subscribers outside the United States. The company offers its streaming services in more than 190 countries.
  8. Netflix’s transition from mostly DVDs to mostly streaming was epic, with the company losing 800,000 subscribers when it decided to raise prices and separate its DVD and streaming services in summer 2011. Hastings later admitted he acted too hastily. Netflix’s value plunged to the point that many thought the company would become an acquisition target.
  9. Like other tech companies, Netflix’s origin story is a little unclear. Hastings has said he came up with the idea after he was charged a late fee for renting “Apollo 13” at Blockbuster. But co-founder Randolph has said that wasn’t quite true.
  10. Netflix, whose hits include “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Stranger Things” and plenty of Marvel series and comedy specials to keep a binge-watcher busy, plans to spend $7 billion on original content next year.

And just because it’s a birthday, a bonus party favor: What came to be the Roku streaming player was developed inside Netflix, then spun off because Hastings didn’t want Netflix to do hardware and compete with other companies that would be streaming its content.

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Photo: Remember Netflix’s iconic red envelopes? Here’s a Netflix DVD of the movie “Julie & Julia”  in 2010. Netflix still has millions of subscribers to its DVD-rental service to this day. (Paul Sakuma/AP)


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  • > ..DVD-rental service in the United States. According to its latest filings, the service has 3.7 million customers.

    # mine