Of all the pivots in tech history, has there ever been one more pronounced and impactful than Netflix’s transition from a company that sent out DVDs in the mail into the streaming behemoth it is today? Though the transformation didn’t happen overnight, Netflix’s focus on streaming — along with its downright obsession with original programming — helped turn the company into a cultural institution with an ever-expanding amount of influence across both the technology and entertainment spheres.
Interestingly, though, Netflix still is in the business of sending out DVDs to subscribers in the mail. And though you might be hard pressed to find anyone with a DVD player these days, a shockingly large number of consumers across the U.S. still rely on Netflix for physical media. Specifically, 2.7 million Americans still enjoy Netflix DVDs via the mail, with CNN noting that DVD rentals helped add $212 million in profit to the company’s bottom line last year.
As to the reason why someone in 2019 — with a plethora of streaming options available — would be keen on ordering DVDs in the mail, there are two primary factors in play. For starters, some consumers who live in rural areas lack the requisite bandwidth to make Netflix a viable entertainment option.
This is hardly a new revelation, but what is interesting is that many folks who enjoy Netflix DVDs take advantage of the service for the company’s expansive movie selection. Especially with content creators wary about Netflix’s growing influence, the number of movies available for streaming on Netflix has gone down considerably in recent years. From 2010 to 2018, for example, Netflix’s selection of movies went down from 6,755 movie titles to 4,010. What’s more, the quality of available streaming movies has also gone down in recent years.
As we noted just a few months ago:
Back in 2014, Netflix housed 49 movies which appeared on IMDB’s list of the top 250 movies of all time. Four years later, that number has since dwindled down to 35. In other words, a paltry 14% of the top movies of all time are currently available for streaming on Netflix, a list which includes The Dark Knight, Full Metal Jacket, No Country for Old Men, and Jurassic Park.
With that said, many consumers who still rely on Netflix for physical DVDs are simply bona-fide movie lovers who are keen on taking advantage of a library of movies with an estimated 100,000 unique titles.
Speaking to CNN, a Netflix spokesperson explained:
People assume that our customers must either be super seniors or folks that live in the boonies with no internet access. Actually, our biggest hot spots are the coasts, like the Bay Area and New York.
For as great as Netflix has become at rolling out original content, it still remains the go-to place for consumers who prefer movies as opposed to TV.