Case | HBS Case Collection | August 2014

Netflix in 2011

by Willy Shih and Stephen Kaufman

Abstract

Reed Hastings founded Netflix to provide a home movie service that would do a better job satisfying customers than the traditional retail rental model. But as it encountered challenges it underwent several major strategy shifts, ultimately developing a business model and an operational strategy that were highly disruptive to retail video rental chains. The combination of a large national inventory, a recommendation system that drove viewership across a broad catalog, and a large customer base made Netflix a force to be reckoned with, especially as a distribution channel for lower-profile and independent films. Blockbuster, the nation's largest retail video rental firm, was initially slow to respond, but ultimately rolled out a hybrid retail/online response in the form of Blockbuster Online. Aggressive pricing pulled in subscribers, but at a price to both it and Netflix. But a new challenge was on the horizon—the rapid growth of the company's online streaming service, which had a very different business model. Hastings' efforts to separate the activity into two separate companies met with strong pushback from consumers and the press. What was the best path forward?

Keywords: Netflix; DVD; DVD-by-mail; streaming; online entertainment; online video; Disruptive Innovation; Innovation and Management; Innovation Strategy; Business Model; Disruption; Operations; Service Operations; Entertainment; Film Entertainment; Television Entertainment; Media; Strategy; Business or Company Management; Competitive Strategy; Competitive Advantage; Corporate Strategy; Expansion; Technology; Technology Adoption; Technology Platform; Web; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; United States;

Citation:

Shih, Willy, and Stephen Kaufman. "Netflix in 2011." Harvard Business School Case 615-007, August 2014.