Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Netflixed

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover (October 11, 2012)

Journalist Gina Keating penned the recently published Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America's Eyeballs.  This book does to Netflix what The Social Network did for Facebook.  It would not surprise me if a movie studio or production company optioned the rights to make a film.

Keating draws on interviews and behind-the-scenes access so as to reveal how Netflix got to where it is today and what is in store for the future of the company.

Believe it or not but it was in 1997 when Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings decided that they would start an online DVD store.  This was at a time when most people had yet to purchase a DVD player.  I should know--I was buying VHS tapes at that time!

They have come a long way from an April 1998 server crash when they launched to the  25 million subscribers that they have today.  While Netflix is stealing eyes from the broadcast and cable networks, there's still a question of survival.

Keating reveals the true story of how the Netflix idea was born.  Contrary to the myth, it's birth was not a result of a $40 fee owed by Netflix founder Reed Hastings returning Apollo 13 late.

Keating reveals what led to Hasting's decision to raise fees and then later abort the plan to spin-off into two separate companies.  This did not sit well with their subscribers.

Netflix and Red Box were the ones that killed not only Blockbuster but also Hollywood Video.  Nowadays, one can just rent a movie from the comfort of their home without having to wait for the mail.  Netflix has been making agreements with studios for instant streaming of classic television shows and getting new episodes as soon as 15 days after they first air on TV.

Now, while they killed renting DVDs as we now know it, there is still a battle for online video streaming between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Google, and the cable companies.  What has proved crucial for Netflix' success is that they created the DVD rental by mail, their patented online queue for upcoming rentals, and the Cinematch algorithm for recommendations.

The Netflix story is not just absorbing but it is important.  Keating has done a well-done job here.

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