Way before kids these days were “Netflix and Chilling,” the little media company that could had its eyes set on broadcast domination. Since 1997, Netflix has been waging wars with traditional media and from its hard work and dedication, the Internet TV network has completely reinvented not only where we access content, but how we watch it too. With 69 million subscribers in 60 countries around the world, 100 million hours of television and movies are streamed daily! (Wow, you guys. We all really need to get a life.)
With the service streaming on basically every screen available to the human eye, it’s safe to say that pretty soon we will all be Netflix’s slaves in some weird, dystopian Hunger Games-esque future. But don’t worry, finding out what that slimy Frank Underwood is up to will be worth every cent we shell out to them and every millisecond of our forlorn freedom.
Allow yourself to further indulge in your Netflix obsession with these 10 unbelievable (and awesome) things you never knew about your favorite TV streaming service.
10. Netflix Tried to Sell to Blockbuster
In one of the most idiotic business decisions ever, the now-defunct Blockbuster actually said no to acquiring the fledgling streaming company in 2000. The red envelopes were struggling with only 300,000 subscribers at the time and losing money fast. CEO Reed Hastings flew to Dallas to meet with the…uh…”blockbuster” giant, which at the time had about 7,700 stores open and was Scrooge McDuck-diving into mountains of gold and diamonds. Hastings pitched that Netflix would become Blockbuster’s own streaming service, selling 49 percent of the company to them and taking on the blue and yellow moniker. And Blockbuster said no…to a company now worth $20 billion! (Insert one very obnoxious Nelson-from-The-Simpsons laugh here.) Blockbuster owning and innovating the streaming world? That’s a scary thought.
9. Early DVD Subscribers Were Accidentally Delivered Chinese Adult Films
Back in its early days, Netflix sold DVDs as well as rented them by mail. While experimenting with some new offerings, co-founder Marc Randolph made the iffy decision to make footage of President Bill Clinton’s Grand Jury testimony available to subscribers…and of course, it backfired. According to the book Netflixed, there was a mix-up during the duplication process. While 1,000 customers ordered a copy of Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal interview, a few hundred of them actually received hardcore Chinese adult films.
8. Netflix Monitors Illegal Downloads to Decide What Content to Buy
Admit it. Some of you have at some point in your life illegally downloaded shows from BitTorrent or some other pirate site out there. Well, Netflix is paying attention, too. The clever execs at Netflix frequently monitor what shows and movies people are downloading in order to decide what to buy next for their platform, which particularly comes in handy when trying to launch their service in new foreign marketplaces. It’s an idea so genius that it makes me feel incredibly stupid for being shocked by it.
7. Netflix’s Approach to Original Programming Is Genius
After purchasing the licensing rights of the British series House of Cards, Netflix brought David Fincher and Kevin Spacey on to the project because user data suggested a large audience for the actor, director and political thrillers. This alternative approach is also how Netflix jump-started Orange is the New Black, based on a memoir by Piper Kerman. Thanks to her success with Weeds, Jenji Kohan was invited to produce the smash hit about a female prison and its inmates. Although details are scarce, Netflix is obviously doing something right with its original content…because have you even seen Jessica Jones yet?
6. Netflix Ratings? They’ll Never Tell
If you’ve ever wondered how many people watch the site’s original streaming content like Daredevil or Hemlock Grove, you’re shit out of luck. Netflix will never tell. Ever. You’d have more luck getting information out of Brittany Murphy in that Michael Douglas movie. Despite the Nielsen/Hollywood standard of associating ratings and box office numbers to content, Netflix just doesn’t care. Why? With ratings kept a secret, there’s no pressure for a show to perform, there’s less chance for contract disputes, and the company doesn’t have to deal with outside pressure about the performance of their content. Even showrunners themselves have no idea just how many people are watching their shows. But I don’t think we really need to question whether anyone is watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Master of None. Just check the Twitter buzz after a new series or season has sprung.
5. How Content is Delivered Will Make Your Head Spin
At peak viewing times, Netflix accounts for a third of consumer Internet traffic in North America. That’s a lot of zombies staring at screens at the same time! How that content reaches your TV will pain your brain. In the most simplified terms, the company jams 36 drives into servers that are 6 inches high and 2 feet deep, according to David Fullagar, director of content delivery architecture at Netflix. Each server stores 100TB of data and streams somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 movies simultaneously.
As of 2014, the company had approximately 1,000 of these storage systems in its network, holding more than a petabyte (in layman’s terms, about 1,024TB, aka, 1,048,576 GB), though it’s anticipated that this number has risen since.
4. The Service has 76,897 Micro-Genres.
Comedy, horror, drama? Check, check and check. But how about Cult Evil Kid Horror Movies, Violent Suspenseful Action & Adventure from the 1980s, and Visually-striking Foreign Nostalgic Dramas? Netflix has all those too. Plus about 76,891 more. The mad scientists have painstakingly analyzed and tagged every movie and TV show imaginable, something no other company has spent the time or resources on. Internally, they call these fleshed out categories “altgenres,” a completely accurate and fair name.
3. Unlimited Vacation Time
It sounds too good to be true – but it is. Netflix has offered its workers unlimited vacation time since 2002. Internally, employee vacation time is handled informally, as long as workers don’t slack off so much that it affects the company. Sure, they have to arrange it in advance and not take off without notice, but hey – talk about a benny! Interestingly enough, Sir Richard Branson took a page out of this book and offered the same policy to Virgin employees. So if you’re looking for your next job or career…
2. Binge Watching May Be Linked to Depression
The University of Texas found that survey respondents who claimed to binge on Netflix shows were more likely to suffer from depression, lack of self-control, and/or loneliness. This topic certainly begs to be explored more (well, the loneliness part is pretty obvious); the university’s definition of “binge-watching” was as low as two episodes, so according to us, the results may be skewed. A new study is in order…anyone know where we can sign up?
1. Netflix is On Its Way to World Domination
Not only has the streaming service been around longer than Google, which was founded one year later in 1998, but Netflix also outranked the viewership of cable. As of last year, Netflix had 4.4 million more users than HBO, which touts such heavy hitters as Game of Thrones, Veep, and Girls. If Netflix joined forces with Google in the near future, it would be like the equivalent of a real-life Skynet and surely the future of the world be destroyed by artificial intelligence at the hands of Netflix. In fact, I think I’ve seen a movie like that before, where technology destroyed the human race and everyone died except one outlier group of misfit survivors who worked together to escape the futuristic terror.
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