The Crazy Numbers Behind Netflix's 20 Years of Success A well-timed pivot led the way to monetary success and critical acclaim.

By Nina Zipkin

Chris Ratcliffe | Getty Images

It’s been an exciting few years for Netflix. On Aug. 29, 2017, it celebrated 20 years since its founding. And April 14, 2008 saw another milestone -- two decades since it officially opened for business.

As the company grew, onetime competitors in the space -- Blockbuster (RIP), Redbox and even Walmart -- faded from view. Mobile devices became more powerful, better equipping viewers to watch anywhere.

The company started with a little more than 900 movie titles and has evolved since into a algorithm-driven powerhouse with more than 70,000 different “microgenres,” from international rom-coms to dramas with strong female leads.

By 2007, the company had launched its streaming video service, which allowed it to expand beyond its initial premise of DVD rentals by mail, charting the path for its current pop cultural dominance, even putting tech behemoths including Amazon on notice.

Related: 12 Documentaries on Netflix That Will Make You Smarter About Business

In 2017, Netflix brought in more than $11 billion in revenue and had its first full year of turning a profit in international markets. Back in the states, the company now has 125 million subscribers. 

Netflix isn’t just profiting monetarily, but creatively, particularly in the world of TV. In recent months, prolific showrunners Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy were brought into the fold with a $100 million four-year and a $300 million five-year deal respectively.

The streaming service also has some big expectations for 2018. Netflix plans to spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content -- a $1 billion to $2 billion increase from 2017 -- and is planning to release 80 original films, leaping ahead of movie studio competitors like Sony and Disney.  

On its 20th anniversary, here’s a look at Netflix by the numbers.


A strange thing

Reed Hastings wore a Stranger Things themed ugly sweater during an earnings call in November 2017. You can purchase the Stranger Things sweater at Target for $32.99.

125 million

Netflix has 125 million subscribers around the world.


A growing library

The streaming service launched with roughly 1,000 films and TV series. As of the spring 2017, Netflix had 4,563 movies and 2,445 shows in its digital library.



The service is available in 21 languages.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

That's a lot of data

Netflix made up nearly 37 percent of all internet traffic in North America in 2015.

Netflix | Twitter


It is currently available to users in 190 countries. At the start of 2016, the company added 130 to the 60 it was already serving.

Got to spend money to make money

As of last year, the company reportedly spends $6 billion a year on developing new series.

Related Video: Why Beacon Wants to Be the 'Netflix' -- and Not the 'Uber' -- for Private Aviation

Original content

Netflix launched its second original series, an American remake of the British political thriller House of Cards, in 2013. It's first attempt at original content was 2012  series called Lilyhammer. It starred Steven Van Zandt as an American mobster hiding out in Norway and didn't get quite as much fanfare as the D.C.-based drama. 


In 2012, Netflix offered only four pieces of original content, but by 2016, it offered 126 different original series and films. In 2017, the company expects to make more than 1,000 hours of original programming, compared to more than 600 hours in 2016.

Gabriel Olsen | Getty Images

Award winning

In 2013, the company won three primetime Emmy's and became the first internet network to be nominated for the award. Since 2013 it has been nominated for the award 133 times.


Fit for royalty

The Crown, Netflix's ambitious series about the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II, is reportedly the most expensive television show ever made, with a production cost of $130 million.
Jin Lee | Getty Images


In 1999, the company launched the model that it became known for before the service got into the streaming game -- unlimited DVD rentals with a monthly subscription.
Netflix Prize


In 2009, the company awarded $1 million, as part of the first Netflix Prize, to a seven-person team who came up with an algorithm to boost the accuracy of what a viewer would like to watch based on their previous choices.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

You know what, never mind

In 2011, the announcement was made that Netflix was going to split in two. The DVD rental part of the company was going to be called while streaming would remain under the Netflix banner. But after a customer uproar, the plans were scuttled.

Back from the dead

Netflix is something of a wish-granting factory for people mourning the loss of their favorite shows. Arrested Development, Black Mirror, Degrassi, Full House, Gilmore Girls, The Killing, Longmire and Star Wars: The Clone Wars have all been resurrected on the platform.


The number of original series (including some holdovers from old networks such as Longmire and the Killing) that Netflix has actually cancelled. But even Netflix can be persuaded. Lana and Lily Wachowski's sci-fi series Sense8 was cancelled after two seasons, but after a fan campaign, The Matrix directors are making a wrap-up film in lieu of a third season.

Related: Netflix's Company Culture Scares Off Some Potential Hires -- and That's a Good Thing

Daniel Acker | Getty Images

Going public

On May 23, 2002, Netflix officially became a publicly traded company. If you invested $1,000 in the company that day, your shares would be worth more than $148,000 as of Aug. 29, 2017.
Mark Sagliocco | Getty Images

Still going strong

As of May 2017, the company was valued at $70 billion. In July, Morgan Stanley valued the content assets alone at $11 billion.
Rational Software


The year CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings founded his first company, Pure Software. In 1997, the company was acquired by Rational Software and left the business soon after, leading the way to start Netflix.

Akio Kon | Getty Images

Come a long way

In an interview with USA Today in 2006, Hastings shared that as CEO of Pure Software, he wasn't always confident of his abilities. "I tried to fire myself -- twice," he said.
Chris Ratcliffe | Getty Images


The number of boards Hastings sits on, including Microsoft and Facebook.

The One to Beat

For each of the past 17 years, HBO was the network with the most Emmy nominations, but this year, the channel’s reign came to an end when Netflix took the top spot. This year, Netflix received 112 nominations and HBO got 108. Netflix series GLOW and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are on the best comedy list, and The Crown and Stranger Things are in contention to win for best drama. Other notable nominations include the first episode of the most recent season of Black Mirror, “USS Callister,” which got recognized for best TV movie and the buzzy reboot of Queer Eye got nominated for Best Structured Reality Series.

Wavy Line
Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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