“Stone Age. Bronze Age. Iron Age. We define entire epics of humanity by the technology they use.” – Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO
You must be living under a rock not to know what Netflix is, even if you don’t have access to it—An actual rock! On top of your house! Gone are the days when you would go to your local Blockbuster on a Friday night, perusing the shelves trying to find a movie to watch (prizes for people old enough to have any idea what I’m talking about). Now we just go to Netflix and browse their incredibly substantial library for whatever we desire, without even having to leave our homes… or beds. But where did this company come from, and how do they work? Keep reading to find out 42 facts about the company that changed the way we watch movies.
42. Which Came First?
This may surprise you, but Netflix actually predates Google by around one year. The search engine was founded in 1998, but Netflix came about as a subscription service in 1997. Who knew? (Well, you do now).
41. Kibble and Chill?
Originally, founding CEO Marc Randolph named the company Kibble.com, after his dog. “No matter how good the advertising, it’s not a success if the dogs don’t eat the dog food,” he said. Some other names that were thrown around include Replay.com, Luna.com and Directpix.com.
40. But Did He Rewind?
The original idea for Netflix came when the current CEO, Reed Hastings, had a $40 late charge for a VHS tape of Apollo 13 he’d rented six weeks prior. “I had misplaced the cassette,” Hastings said. “It was all my fault, I didn’t want to tell my wife about it. And I said to myself, ‘I’m going to compromise the integrity of my marriage over a late fee?’” Later, on his way to the gym, he realized that his gym’s business model could work for movies: paying a set fee per month to work out as much (or as little) as you wanted to. That concept was the basis of Netflix, and has inspired countless other subscription based services.
39. Fact or Fiction?
There’s a bit of contention with this story though. A former reporter for Reuters, Gina Keating, wrote Netflixed, a detailed book that helps to debunk myths about Netflix. “I was told after interviewing the Netflix founding team that that [story] began as a construct to explain to people how Netflix worked because the model in 1997 was very foreign to consumers… the idea was to tell that story so that people would understand you didn’t have to pay late fees and you could keep it as long as you wanted,” she added. I don’t know what to believe now!
38. You Win Some, You Really Lose Others
In 2000, Blockbuster had the option of buying Netflix for $50 million. Blockbuster declined the deal, and now they don’t even exist. Netflix, on the other hand, is worth an estimated $20 billion. Of the deal-that-never-was, Randolph said “we offered to sell a 49% stake and take the name Blockbuster.com. We’d be their online service.” Oh Blockbuster, to add insult to injury…
37. Can I Come Over?
In the late 90s, if you lived in Los Gatos, California (the site of the company’s headquarters) and were subscribed to the service, you may have gotten a house call from a Netflix employee. The company would do customer experience surveys by phone and would ask local residents if someone could come by and actually watch them interact with the website. Most people agreed, and the Netflix employees would show up at their houses, bringing coffee as a small token of their appreciation.
36. Something Like a Phenomenon
In 2016, Netflix reported they were available in 190 countries and had more than 74 million subscribers. About two billion hours of content gets streamed all over the world in just one month.
35. Are You There? It’s Me, Netflix
Sure, they have a lot of subscribers, but keep in mind, each subscription can have multiple users, so the number of people using the service is much larger than the number of subscriptions. That also means there’s quite a lot more opportunities for Netflix to ask if we’re still watching. (Yes, yes we are, but thank you for checking in).
34. Streaming in the U.S.A.
The US accounts for a lot of this action. Netflix has about 33 million subscribers in the country, outpacing regular old cable at this point. About a third of all internet traffic during primetime in the US comes from Netflix itself.
33. Not So Great White North
Being a Canadian Netflix subscriber has its pitfalls. Not only do Canadians not get the same breadth of content as Americans do, but to Netflix, Canada is considered a third world country. Don’t take it too personally Canadians, it’s only because of the country’s internet broadband ranking—Canadian internet services are some of the most expensive in the world. In 2012, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos said “It’s almost a human rights violation what they’re charging for internet across Canada.”
32. Who Are You Watching?
To give a different perspective on these numbers, check out the bandwidth. Netflix has peak traffic of 36.5% of the total bandwidth in North America, whereas Amazon and Hulu combine for less than two percent.
31. We Have More Viewers Than You Do!
HBO is probably the only comparable competition for Netflix in terms of original content and viewers. They’re constantly trying to out-do each either and claim the top spot—Sarandos has said that Netflix’s goal “is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” Netflix overtook HBO in early 2014 for viewership (33.4 million US viewers to 28 million), but ratings are more difficult to calculate. Netflix guards their numbers so it’s hard to say who has more, but in 2015 Sarandos said that their show Narcos got more viewers than HBO’s Game of Thrones.
30. Sorry, Come Back Later
If you’re looking for some good-quality Netflix and chill, don’t watch in the evening. The worst time to watch for video quality is between seven and nine at night.
29. What’s Your Number?
The average user watches about 90 minutes worth of Netflix programming a day. But keep in mind, that average includes the binge-watchers who haven’t seen outside their bedroom in weeks.
28. To Binge or Not to Binge
Netflix reports that only about 60% of its users binge-watch every few weeks. That’s probably for the best, since a 2015 study from the University of Texas shows that binge-watching can actually lead to depression. The act of binge-watching makes a person feel like they don’t have any control, and that can lead to feelings of loneliness and problems with self-esteem. Also, fun fact about the term “binge-watch:” it was named the 2015 word of the year by dictionary publisher Collins.
27. Beating the System
Your recommendations list can actually be affected by binge-watching. The way to fix this? Rate the stuff you watch. Easy-peasy! Oh, and make sure everyone in the house has their own profile, that helps too. The most common binge-watched shows in Netflix’s lineup include Breaking Bad, Bates Motel and How I Met Your Mother.
26. Let’s Not Get Ready to Rumble
Something you won’t find on Netflix? Live sports. In 2016, Sarandos said “there’s no interest in live sports currently.” Read: currently. Maybe in the future?
25. Sounds More Like Eating a Pita
Netflix has a lot of content. Like, a lot a lot. Their library uses over a petabyte of data. That’s a little over 1,000 terabytes of data, or one million gigabytes. Holy data Batman.
It seems like Netflix subscribers have a short attention span, at least when it comes to looking for something to watch. They estimate that someone will spend two minutes or less looking for something to watch before they either find something or just give up.
23. Endlessly Scrolling
One independent developer, Renan Cakirerk, decided he didn’t Netflix’s confusing and unfriendly interface, so he created “god mode.” It was a plugin that essentially just showed the viewer all their options in one vertical menu. Netflix liked it (mainly because it was crazy popular) and eventually used it as a major part of their site redesign.
22. Don’t Say There’s Nothing to Watch
If you still don’t love Netflix’s layout, there’s a couple of places you can go to check out what’s on Netflix without actually being in Netflix. “Instant Watcher” rates movies based on popularity, noteworthiness, release year, genre, etc. Then there’s “What’s New On Netflix,” which is exactly what it sounds like, but can be oh-so necessary when you just want to find out what, exactly, is new on Netflix—information that the site itself seems like it’s really trying to hide from me.
21. Oh, That’s Fancy!
No remote? No problem! If you’re watching Netflix on your Playstation, you can sync your phone or tablet and use it as a remote. Though I guess a Playstation controller is already basically a remote…
20. It Was a Big Year
2015 saw 66 originals coming from Netflix. Among them were Making a Murderer, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Grace and Frankie.
19. Billions are Pennies to Them
In 2017 alone, Netflix added more than 1,000 hours of original content, costing roughly six billion dollars. Yes, that’s billion–with a B. They’re upping the game to eight billion dollars for 2018, but there’s that whole net neutrality thing that may or may not throw a wrench in streaming capabilities. That’s something for another day.
18. Take Your Pick
2017 was another big year for Netflix originals. Just to name a few, the year saw the release of Big Mouth, Master of None season 2, Bojack Horseman season 4, Stranger Things season 2, G.L.O.W., Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2, Alias Grace and Narcos season 3.
17. Betting the House
House of Cards was a bit of a gamble when it was first pitched. Sure, its British counterpart was doing really well, but no one knew how well it would do in an American market. Netflix crunched the numbers, and checked out things like the viewership of director David Fincher’s films, and how often those viewers checked out Kevin Spacey’s catalogue and the British House of Cards. They liked what they saw, so the show happened.
16. Netflix and Get Things Done
If you have kids, you’re statistically more likely to have a Netflix account. Just make sure your kids are set up as their own user—you wouldn’t want their programming affecting your recommendations list, nor would you want your kids watching some of Netflix’s more mature offerings.
15. Let’s Take it Way Back for a Minute
American subscribers: you’re in luck. Type “Example Show” into the search bar and check out what comes up. Go on, we’ll wait! Back yet? It’s an 11-minute test film that was never meant to be shown to the general public, and it’s the first online video content Netflix ever added.
14. What About a Suggestion Box?
Ever wonder how Netflix decides what video content to add to their library? Well, it’s pretty simple: they do it by searching the internet. BitTorrent is just one of the places they go to so they can find out what the masses want to watch.
13. Well That’s Pretty Overwhelming
I don’t know how anyone would ever have the time to do this, but there are more than 76,000 categories to scroll through on Netflix. There’s categories like “Cool Moustaches,” “Imaginative Time Travel Movies from the 1980s” or even “Movies That Are English But Still Require Subtitles.” But what I want to know is, is there a “Cat-egory.” You know, one all about cats? Anyone? No? Okay, moving on then.
12. Glitch in the Matrix
If you had Netflix back in 2014, you may have been witness to an interesting glitch. It caused lines from various synopses to merge together to form crazy mashup descriptions. Case in point: “Legendary business man and Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, changed the way Americans live, think, and work, before his extraterrestrial activity.”
11. Where Do We Sign Up?
It pays to work for Netflix. Literally. Their starting rate is $18 an hour plus your own free subscription. Employees can also take as much time off as they want, as long is it’s booked in advance and their work isn’t affected by so much time away from the office. A company spokesperson has said, “It’s about freedom and responsibility and treating people like adults.” Hey, if you love what you do, you’re more likely to a great job, right?
10. Wanted: Professional Binge-Watchers
Get this: Netflix pays people watch their content. They hire people to watch and tag movies or TV shows with keywords from a pool of about 1,000 words. The purpose of the project is to improve Netflix’s recommendations algorithm and keep people on the site as much as possible. “We are very selective in the hiring process,” Todd Yellin, Vice President of production innovation says. “A tagger is someone with an analytical mind; someone who can deconstruct a movie or TV show into its core elements.” Netflix, chill and get paid. Bonus: no traffic on your commute to work.
9. Can You Keep a Secret?
It’s like Blockbuster, but never having to leave your house! Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service, which is offered for a flat fee, is still in operation. The employees are sworn to secrecy as to the location of these secret warehouses, though. This prevents people from dropping their DVDs off, and keeps prospective thieves guessing. Even their trucks go incognito.
8. Where Does This Go?
I don’t know how they don’t go cross-eyed. Netflix inspectors sort about 650 DVDs every hour, which is over 5,000 in a day.
7. One-Hit Wonder
Netflix tried launching their own awards show, The Flixies. It didn’t go over so well, because it only ever happened the one time in 2013.
6. Yearly Recap
Just a few more interesting 2017 stats from the company for you: New Year’s Day was the most popular day for binge-watching worldwide, and Mexico came in first in terms of per capita users watching Netflix content daily, followed by Canada, Peru and the US.
5. But Where’s the Rum?
Someone in the US really likes Pirates of the Caribbean. This person watched The Curse of the Black Pearl 365 times in 2017, breaking a record for global re-watching previously held by everyone’s favorite flick, Bee Movie (seriously, Bee Movie held the record).
4. Time is of the Essence
There’s something to be said for watching TV programming without commercials. According to the website CordCutting.com, a Netflix subscriber will get themselves an extra 158 hours of content simply by having no commercials interrupting their TV viewing.
3. Just Press Play
Netflix considers any show that is watched for over two hours in a day to be “devoured” by the viewer, and at the end of each year they release a list of the “most devoured” shows. Worldwide, American Vandal, 3% and Thirteen Reasons Why were the most devoured in 2016, while in the US, the top three were American Vandal, Suburra: Blood on Rome and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
2. The Same, but Different
What’s the difference between a rectangle and a square? About $225 million dollars. The company uses envelopes that are rectangular in shape, because the United States Postal Service charges less for them than they do for square ones. Smart move, Netflix.
1. The O.G. Tweet
Have you ever wondered where the term “Netflix and Chill” actually comes from? Turns out, it was someone on Twitter who wrote “I’m about to log onto Netflix and chill for the rest of the night” all the way back in 2009. “Black Twitter,” the collective term for the massive community focused on black culture and issues that has grown out of twitter, took the term and spun it into something completely different, something that involved a little bit less chilling, sometime between 2011 and 2014.