The company has since grown into a streaming giant, having ushered in the era of binge-watching, with more than 220 million paying subscribers worldwide for its online streaming service.
But a quarter of a century later, Netflix still has the DVD segmentand it still mails physical discs to customers in the US who have a separate subscription just for that.
“I save the Netflix DVD not only to watch weird movies, but also things that I research and watch before I buy,” visual artist William FitzGerald told Insider.
He has 140 movies in his queue.
Netflix’s subscription model for DVDs (and Blu-rays) has three packages: The basic $10 per month plan gets you one drive at a time, the $15 plan gets you two, and the $20 plan gets you three.
When you send them back in the envelope they came in, you get the next ones in your queue. Every plan comes with free shipping and returns.
On online forums, some loyalists say they subscribe because they can find obscure movies that aren’t easily online. It seems to attract the biggest moviegoers, or those in rural areas without fast internet access.
Netflix has a huge library on its streaming service, but last month its number of originals actually exceeded its amount of licensed content. For those looking for classic movies or TV shows that aren’t available in a streamer’s back catalog, DVD rentals are the best option.
“So much good stuff is either not released anywhere, or released at prohibitive prices,” said one person last yearunder a Reddit thread titled I subscribed to Netflix’s DVD service for the first time last month!
“Didn’t know they were still doing this,” another Reddit user replied. “Might not be a bad idea since I live in a rural area with a poor internet connection.”
But Netflix’s DVD business may have an uncertain future.
Netflix’s DVD offering may only be a few years old
By 2018, its distribution centers across the United States had dropped to 17, down from the 50 that Netflix operated at its peak.
“The speed has definitely slowed down”, said a Reddit user earlier this year. Netflix had MANY distribution centers across the country. Now they have a handful. The discs took a day to come back and another day to get a new one. Now it seems like two days each way.
But the person added, “if you watch a lot of stuff, you can balance that out by having a 3-disc schedule and having them travel back and forth, criss-crossing the mail.”
At the end of 2019, the company last reported DVD subscriber counts, it had 2.15 million members, a loss of more than 500,000 during the year, and a dramatic drop. compared to the more than 3 million it had in 2017.
And since then, segment revenue has fallen every year. It grossed $182 million in 2021, a far cry from the $30 billion in streaming revenue at that time and the nearly $300 million in DVD revenue two years prior.
Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said in 2019 he could see the DVD segment last another five yearswhich would mean until 2024. Although he also added that he was in no rush to get rid of it.
Netflix did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
If Netflix were to drop the DVD offering, FitzGerald has an alternative in mind for its obscure movie needs.
“I should just subscribe to Criterion Channel one of these days,” he said.
But he also hopes that physical media will always have a place in the entertainment landscape: “I hope we never completely give in to the cloud for all of our media needs.”