Netflix, Inc. is an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media available to viewers in North and South America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). As of 2017, the company has its headquarters in Los Gatos, California
Netflix was founded on August 29, 1997, in Scotts Valley, California, by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings. Randolph worked as marketing director for Hastings' company, Pure Atria Corporation. Randolph was a co-founder of MicroWarehouse, a computer mail-order company, and was later employed by Borland International as vice president of marketing. Hastings, a computer scientist, and mathematician sold Pure Atria to Rational Software Corporation in 1997 for $700 million in what was then the richest acquisition in Silicon Valley history. He and Randolph came up with the idea for Netflix while commuting between their homes in Santa Cruz and Pure Atria's headquarters in Sunnyvale while waiting for government regulators to approve the merger.
Hastings, Randolph's mother, and Integrity QA founder Steve Kahn invested $2.5 million in startup cash for Netflix. Randolph admired the fledgling e-commerce company Amazon and wanted to find a large category of portable items to sell over the internet using a similar model. He and Hastings considered and rejected VHS tapes as too expensive to stock and too delicate to ship. When they heard about DVDs, which were available in only a few markets in 1997, they tested the concept of selling or renting DVDs by mail by mailing a compact disc to Hastings' house in Santa Cruz. When the disc arrived intact, they decided to take on the $16 billion home video sales and rental industry. Hastings is often quoted saying that he decided to start Netflix after being fined $40 at a video store for being late to return a copy of Apollo 13 but this is an apocryphal story that he and Randolph designed to explain the company's business model and motivation.
Netflix was launched on April 14, 1998, with only 30 employees and 925 DVDs available through the pay-per-rent model with rates and due dates that were similar to its bricks-and-mortar rival, Blockbuster.
Netflix's initial business model included DVD sales and rental, although Hastings jettisoned DVD sales about a year after Netflix's founding to focus on the DVD rental by mail business. In 2007, Netflix expanded its business with the streaming of media, while retaining the DVD and Blu-ray rental service. The company expanded internationally, with streaming made available to Canada in 2010 and continued growing its streaming service from there; by January 2016, Netflix services operated in over 190 countries.
Netflix entered the content-production industry in 2013, debuting its first series, House of Cards. It has greatly expanded the production of both film and television series since then, offering "Netflix Original" content through its online library of films and television. Netflix released an estimated 126 original series or films in 2016, more than any other network or cable channel.
In January 2017, Netflix reported having over 93 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 49 million in the United States.