Everyone’s favourite streaming company Netflix is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
After launching in 1997 as a DVD rental business by founders Reed Hastings, now chief executive, and Mark Randolph who retired in 2004, the company expanded into streaming 10 years later and has since become the online giant that many know and love.
Without Netflix, we might never have witnessed Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian bid for the US presidency in House of Cards or ventured into the Upside Down with the kids in Stranger Things.
Here are the 10 business moments that make Netflix the company it is today.
1. IPO in 2002
Five years after the company launched, it went public in May 2002 for $15 a share. By September that year, it was mailing around 190,000 DVDs a day to over 600,000 subscribers.
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2. Introduces streaming in 2007
In 2007, 10 years after the company launched, it decided to add on streaming services. This is from a Forbes article written at the time:
Subscribers will, at no additional charge, be able to watch movies on their computer through a high-quality service that starts the film in seconds. At a basic DSL or cable modem speed, resolution is excellent, and the viewer can pause the movie or download a different film.
At the time, it was reportedly looking into a streaming box but decided to kill it and focus on the online version. How different things could have been.
3. Becomes a streaming company in 2010
It was in 2010 that Netflix decided to make streaming the main focal point of the company. In an investors call, chief executive Hastings said:
“Three years ago we were a DVD by-mail company that offered some streaming. We are now a streaming company which also offers DVD-by mail.”
At this point, it had been trialling a streaming-only service in Canada alongside its video offering, before making this available in the US.
4. Launched its first original series, Lilyhammer, in 2012
Lilyhammer, a Sopranos-meets-Scandi Noir drama, was, in fact, the first original series to be streamed on Netflix, not House of Cards, though that came the year after.
This was the first time Netflix offered all the episodes of a season up in one go and introduced the binge watching culture that its fans know and love.
As well, Netflix launched in the UK for the first time in 2012, offering shows like The Inbetweeners and The Only Way is Essex.
5. Launched House of Cards in 2013
House of Cards was the show that really launched the popularity of the streaming service. It reportedly cost Netflix $100m for two seasons, coming in at around $4m per episode.
Yet, it paid off. The show recently released its fifth season and has spawned a thousand think pieces on the similarities between an Underwood White House and a Trump one.
6. First Golden Globe win in 2014
Whilst Netflix has won several awards since it launched its original content, in 2014 Robin Wright won the Golden Globes for Best Actress – Television for her role as Claire Underwood in House of Cards.
This was Netflix’s first award in an acting category and made Wright the first actress to win a Golden Global for an online-only web television series.
A year later, Spacey won Best Actor at the 72nd Golden Globes, marking Netflix’s first Best Actor win.
7. First Academy Award win in 2017
Netflix was first nominated for an Academy Award in 2014 for The Square, an Egyptian-American documentary on the Egyptian crisis that began in 2011.
However, it wasn’t until this year that it would win its first Oscar. It received the golden statue in the documentary short-subject category for The White Helmets, which followed volunteer rescue workers and their work trying to save civilians in Syria and Turkey.
Netflix’s rival Amazon managed to pick up three Oscars on the night, two for Manchester By the Sea which won best original screen play and best actor, and best foreign language film for the Iranian drama The Salesman.
8. First appearance at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017
This year, Netflix made it to the high echelons of cinema by premiering two films at the Cannes Film Festival. Okja, staring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhal and Lily Collins about a mysterious monster, was showcased alongside The Meyerowtiz Stories, about a family dealing with the influence of their ageing father, starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson amongst others.
However, according to The Hollywood Reporter, this could be the last time Netflix premiers films at the festival as the organisers decided that only films that were released in cinemas in France would be allowed to attend from 2018 onwards.
A statement from Cannes said:
“The festival is pleased to welcome a new operator which has decided to invest in cinema but wants to reiterate its support to the traditional mode of exhibition of cinema in France and the world.”
9. Hit 100m subscribers in 2017
The company officially hit 100m subscribers in July this year, with around 6.4m of those based in the UK.
In a letter to shareholders, Hastings said:
“Creating a TV network is now as easy as creating an app, and investment is pouring into content production around the world. We are all co-pioneers of internet TV and, together, we are replacing linear TV.”
10. Made its first acquisition in 2017
In August, Netflix made its first acquisition: buying Millarworld, a comic book company founded by Mark Millar, for an undisclosed sum.
Chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said that Millar is “as close as you can get to a modern-day Stan Lee”.
The platform already boosts several comic adaptations, from Riverdale to Marvel’s TV series. However, this will be an attempt by Netflix to create and explore its own comic worlds.