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Netflix, Inc. is an American media-services provider and production company headquartered in Los Gatos, California, founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in Scotts Valley, California. The company's primary business is its subscription-based streaming service which offers online streaming of a library of films and television programs, including those produced in-house. As of April 2020, Netflix had over 182 million paid subscriptions worldwide, including 69 million in the United States. It is available worldwide except in the following: mainland China (due to local restrictions), Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Crimea (due to U.S. sanctions). The company also has offices in Brazil, the Netherlands, India, Japan, and South Korea. Netflix is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Today, the company produces and distributes content from countries all over the globe.
Netflix's initial business model included DVD sales and rental by mail, but Hastings abandoned the sales about a year after the company's founding to focus on the initial DVD rental business. Netflix expanded its business in 2007 with the introduction of streaming media while retaining the DVD and Blu-ray rental business. The company expanded internationally in 2010 with streaming available in Canada, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. Netflix entered the content-production industry in 2013, debuting its first series House of Cards.
Since 2012, Netflix has taken more of an active role as producer and distributor for both film and television series, and to that end, it offers a variety of "Netflix Original" content through its online library. By January 2016, Netflix services operated in more than 190 countries. Netflix released an estimated 126 original series and films in 2016, more than any other network or cable channel. Their efforts to produce new content, secure the rights for additional content, and diversify through 190 countries have resulted in the company racking up billions in debt: $21.9 billion as of September 2017, up from $16.8 billion from the previous year. $6.5 billion of this is long-term debt, while the remaining is in long-term obligations. In October 2018, Netflix announced it would raise another $2 billion in debt to help fund new content.
Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings founded Netflix on August 29, 1997 in Scotts Valley, California. Randolph worked as a marketing director for Hastings' company, Pure Atria. Randolph had co-founded MicroWarehouse, a computer mail-order company; Borland International later employed him as vice president of marketing. Hastings, a computer scientist and mathematician, sold Pure Atria to Rational Software Corporation in 1997 for $700 million in what was then the biggest acquisition in Silicon Valley history. The two came up with the idea for Netflix when commuting between their homes in Santa Cruz and Pure Atria's headquarters in Sunnyvale while waiting for government regulators to approve the merger, although Hastings has given several different explanations for how the idea came about.
Hastings invested $2.5 million in startup cash for Netflix. Randolph admired the fledgling e-commerce company Amazon and wanted to find a large category of portable items to sell over the Internet using a similar model. Hastings and Randolph considered and rejected VHS tapes as too expensive to stock and too delicate to ship. When they heard about DVDs (first introduced in the United States on March 24, 1997,), they tested the concept of selling or renting DVDs by mail by mailing a compact disc to Hastings' house in Santa Cruz. When the disc arrived intact, they decided to take on the $16 billion home-video sales and rental industry. Hastings is often quoted saying that he decided to start Netflix after being fined $40 at a Blockbuster store for being late to return a copy of Apollo 13, but he and Randolph designed this apocryphal story to explain the company's business model and motivation.
In 2007, Netflix recruited one of the early DVR business pioneers Anthony Wood to build a "Netflix Player" that would allow streaming content to be played directly on a television set rather than a PC or laptop. While the player was initially developed at Netflix, Reed Hastings eventually shut down the project to help encourage other hardware manufacturers to include built-in Netflix support. Wood eventually launched the player as the first device from Roku Inc. which is now primarily known for its streaming video players, with Netflix serving as a primary investor in the new company.
In 2011, Netflix introduced a Netflix button for certain remote controls, allowing users to instantly access Netflix on compatible devices.
Netflix revealed a prototype of the new device called "The Switch" at the 2015 World Maker Faire New York. "The Switch" allows Netflix users to turn off lights when connected to a smart home light system. It also connects to users' local networks to enable their servers to order takeout, and silence one's phone at the press of a button. Though the device hasn't been patented, Netflix released instructions on their website, on how to build it at home (DIY). The instructions cover both the electrical structure and the programming processes.
Since 2015, the company received significant technical support from France's CNRS concerning video compression and formating, through CNRS' Laboratoire des Sciences du Numérique de Nantes (LS2N). In March 2017 at Barcelona's World Congress for mobile technologies, the American company presented the French lab's open-source technological creation: a compression tool allowing HD+ video quality with a bandwidth need of under 100 kilobytes per second, 40 times less than that of HDTV needs and compatible with mobile services worldwide.
In May 2016, Netflix created a new tool called FAST to determine the speed of an Internet connection.
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