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There was a time in the not-too-distant past when a DVD arriving in a red Netflix envelope was the hot new thing – at least compared to traipsing to Blockbuster to pick up a VHS tape.
But a lot can change in 25 years, and Netflix is planning to wrap up its DVD shipments at the end of September. Of course, unlike Blockbuster, Netflix itself is still (mostly) thriving, having led the move to online streaming when it launched its video-on-demand player back in 2007. Yet for its DVD service, which was spun off from the streaming service in 2011 as DVD.com, the end has been a long time coming.
The company's need to cut costs, coupled with far fewer households using the DVD service, made the demise of those red envelopes all but inevitable. Although Netflix hasn’t published recent figures on how many people still pay for the DVD-by-mail service, NPR recently estimated that it is between 1.1 and 1.3 million subscribers. Many of those subscribers enjoy the nostalgia of the experience, while others have continued paying for the service because they can find films that aren’t available for streaming. But in recent years, Netflix's library of DVDs has been shrinking and some customers have reported long wait times and discs arriving scratched.
However, industry experts aren’t calling the DVD obsolete just yet. Collectors often purchase movies on DVD or Blu-Ray because the physical discs offer a higher-quality viewing experience than streaming services. And plenty of people prefer DVDs because of the special features and the fact that you get to keep your copy forever, rather than risk it being suddenly removed from a streaming service’s library. After all, vinyl has made something of a comeback in recent years, and e-books haven’t yet replaced hardbacks and paperbacks, so the future of DVDs is far from certain.
The end of an era:
- Despite boasting over 230 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix faces a slew of challenges, including slow growth this year, losing 200,000 subscribers last year, and controversies such as changes to its password-sharing policy. And then there are the numerous competitors that have emerged over the years, such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, and many others.
- Since 1998, Netflix has shipped over 5.2 billion discs to 40 million unique subscribers.
- The first DVD shipped was Beetlejuice, on March 10, 1998. The Blind Side was the most popular title shipped.