When will Netflix shut down its DVD mail service? It’s a matter of when, not if.
Netflix’s pioneering DVD-by-mail rental service has been relegated to relegation in the age of video streaming, but still has a steady — albeit shrinking — audience like Amanda Konkle, who happy to pay to receive those iconic red plates-and-white envelopes.
“When you open your inbox, it’s still something you really want instead of just chemistry,” says Konkle, a Savannah, Georgia resident who has subscribed to Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service since 2005, single.
It’s a small pleasure that Konkle and other still-devoted DVD subscribers enjoy, but it’s unclear how long it will last. Netflix declined to comment for this story but in a media events 2018Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings suggested the DVD mailing service could close around 2023.
When — not if — that happens, Netflix will shut down a service that has shipped more than 5 billion records across the United States since its inception nearly a quarter of a century ago. And it would echo the demise of thousands of Blockbuster video rental stores that closed because they couldn’t fight the threat posed by Netflix’s DVD-by-mail alternative.
The eventual demise of its DVD-by-mail service was inevitable since Hastings decided to spin it off from a nascent video streaming service in 2011. At the time, Hastings launched came up with the idea of renaming the service to Qwikster – a messy idea that was so widely derided that it was satire on “Saturday Night Live.” In the end, it solved the current, more trivial problem, DVD.com. The operation is now based in the indescribable office in Fremont, California, located about 20 miles from Netflix’s beautiful campus in Los Gatos, California.
Just before it stopped streaming video, the DVD-by-mail service had more than 16 million subscribers, a number that has now dropped to about 1.5 million subscribers, all in the United States, based on based on calculations drawn from Netflix’s limited disclosures about the service in its quarterly reports. Netflix’s video streaming service currently has 223 million subscribers worldwide, including 74 million in the US and Canada.
Marc Randolph, Netflix’s original CEO, said in an interview at a coffee shop across from the post office in Santa Cruz, California: “The DVD-by-mail business left Netflix what it is today. everyone knows and sees.
This 110-year-old post office became a landmark in Silicon Valley history because it was where Randolph sent the Patsy Cline CD to Hastings in 1997 to check if the disc could be mailed. United States Postal Service without being damaged.
The disc arrived at Hastings’s house spotless, prompting the duo in 1998 to start a DVD rental website by mail that they always knew would be replaced by even more convenient technology.
“It’s a planned obsolescence, but we bet it’s going to take longer for it to happen than most people thought at the time,” Randolph said.
Given Netflix’s successful streaming service, it’s easy to assume that anyone who still pays to receive DVDs in the mail is either tech-fearful or someone living in a remote part of the US without reliable Internet connection. But subscribers say they stick with the service so they can rent movies that are hard to find on streaming services.
For Michael Fusco, 35, that included the 1986 film “Power,” starring then-young Richard Gere and Denzel Washington, and 1980’s “The Big Red One” starring Lee Marvin. That’s one of the main reasons he’s subscribed to the DVD under the service since 2006 when he was a freshman in college and he has no plans to cancel it now.
“I’ve had it for almost half my life and that’s a big part of it,” says Fusco. “When I was younger, it helped me discover voices I probably never heard before. I still have memories of watching movies and letting them amaze me.”
Tabetha Neumann was among the subscribers who rediscovered the DVD service during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020 after running out of things to watch on her video streaming service. So she and her husband signed up again for the first time since canceling in 2011. Now they like it so much that they’re getting a plan that lets them save up to three discs at once, an option that currently costs $20 dollars per month (compared to $10 per month for a one-disc plan).
“When we started going through all the movies we wanted to see, we realized it was cheaper than paying $5 per movie on some streaming services,” says Neumann. “Plus, we found a lot of old horror movies and that genre doesn’t really appeal online.”
Konkle, who has written a book about Marilyn Monroe’s movies, says she still finds movies on the DVD service — like the 1954 film “Cattle Queen of Montana,” which featured the General. President of the United States Ronald Reagan with Barbara Stanwyck and the 1983 French film “Sugar Cane Alley” – helped her teach her film studies classes as an associate professor at the University of South Georgia. Konkle, 40, laughs: “Most of my students don’t know what a DVD is.”
But for all the DVD service’s allure, subscribers are starting to see signs of decline as the business has shrunk from generating more than $1 billion in annual revenue a year ago to sales could drop below $200 this year.
Katie Cardinale, a subscriber who lives in Hopedale, Massachusetts, says she now has to wait two to four days more for discs to arrive in the mail than she used to because they are shipped from a distribution center in New Jersey instead of Boston. (Netflix doesn’t disclose how many DVD distribution centers still operate, but there were about 50 of them in the US.)
Konkle said more and more discs have cracks or other defects inside and it takes “forever” to replace them. And almost all subscribers have noticed that the selection of DVD titles has shrunk considerably since the service’s peak years when Netflix boasted it had over 100,000 movies and TV shows. different shapes on the disc.
Netflix no longer discloses the size of its DVD library, but all of the subscribers interviewed by the AP said the narrow selection made it difficult to find popular movies and popular TV series that were once on the service. service becomes more difficult. Instead, Netflix now queues requests for titles, such as the first season of the award-winning “Ted Lasso” series — a purchasable release on DVD — into the queue. saved”, signaling that they can decide to provide it in the future, depending on demand.
Knowing that the apocalypse was on the horizon, Randolph said he would mourn the death of the DVD service he brought to life while comforting that its legacy would live on.
“Netflix’s DVD business is an integral part of Netflix,” he said. “It’s embedded in the company’s DNA.”
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