In a sad but inevitable announcement, Netflix said that it will close its original DVD-by-mail service later this year, a business that lasted more than a quarter century.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos broke the news on the official Netflix blog, just hours before the company was due to announce its first-quarter 2023 earnings.
Netflix will slip the final discs into its telltale red envelopes on September 29, 2023.
“After an incredible 25 year run, we’ve decided to wind down DVD.com later this year,” Sarandos wrote in the blog post. “Those iconic red envelopes changed the way people watched shows and movies at home—and they paved the way for the shift to streaming.”
Indeed, it can be easy to forget that Netflix started off as a DVD-by-mail service, and I was one of its original customers back before the turn of the century.
The ability to check out multiple DVDs at a time and return them whenever you were done was revelatory, and there were always a clutch of red Netflix envelopes on my coffee table in the early aughts.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Netflix jumped into streaming (with a player manufactured by Roku), and even then, it felt more like an experiment than a replacement for DVDs (the video quality then was pretty iffy, a far cry from the 4K Dolby Vision streams we enjoy today).
And then there was the ill-conceived Qwikster, Netflix’s attempt to spin off its DVD business. Considered Netflix’s biggest mistake (and there are plenty to choose from), the whole Qwikster plan–which would have forced millions of Netflix DVD subscribers to create separate accounts and punch in new credit-card numbers–was quickly scuttled.
Eventually, of course, Netflix’s streaming business grew to gargantuan proportions, dwarfing the original DVD-by-mail business. As Variety notes, Netflix’s DVD income only accounted to a mere 0.5 percent of the company’s overall revenue by 2022.
So, it’s no great surprise that Netflix is finally closing its DVD shop, but the company still had some impressive figures to share today: 5.2 billion DVDs shipped, 40 million unique DVD subscribers, 20 main DVD genres. and a whopping 530 subgenres.
The first Netflix DVD shipped? Beetlejuice, on March 10, 1998, while the most popular Netflix DVD ever was The Blind Side.
So, adieu to Netflix’s red envelopes. It’s been a long time since one of them graced my mailbox, but they’ll be missed.