In what will likely come as a surprise to most of Netflix‘s 238 million subscribers, the global streaming giant was still operating its mail-order DVD rental service – that is, until September 29th.
Co-created by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings in 1998, the company started as a DVD-to-mail service that would ship out films and shows to customers’ doors. The first ever title mailed by Netflix was Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice in March 1998.
In January 2007, when the company decided to make the transition into the streaming market, which it would eventually come to redefine, Netflix only had 1,000 subscribers online compared to its 70,000 DVD customers. By 2011, the company had made history by commissioning the first TV show directly for online streaming: House of Cards.
A year after Blockbuster, Netflix’s main rival, went bust, the company decided to separate its DVD service from its online streaming service into two different subscriptions. However, it surprises many to learn that until just now, the $166 billion company had continued to ship DVDs out.
The service retained just under a million subscribers, with five remaining distribution services solely in the US. These final discs were mailed out to customers this Friday, with customers being allowed to keep the DVDs rather than return them as a farewell present.
“It is very bittersweet,” Randolph told the Associated Press. The co-founder and former chief executive continued: “We knew this day was coming, but the miraculous thing is that it didn’t come 15 years ago.” He explained how the vision of Netflix was always to move away from physical media.
“From day one, we knew DVDs would go away, that this was a transitory step,” Randolph said. “And the DVD service did that job miraculously well. It was like an unsung booster rocket that got Netflix into orbit and then dropped back to Earth after 25 years. That’s pretty impressive.”