10 Incredible Facts You Didn’t Know About Netflix

It’s not really an exaggeration to say that Netflix has fundamentally altered the way that we consume media, and the way that we live our lives. Until recently the term binge-watching would have been considered a gibberish conjunction of nothingness – and the very concept itself would have been thought of almost exclusively as an agoraphobic activity. Yet today binge-watching is arguably the fastest growing activity in the western world and content is specifically tailored to meet our marathon televisual needs.

For better or for worse, Netflix is both omnipresent and alarmingly omnipotent in our lives. The company has grown from a small organisation that can only be born from the kind of blind rage that occurs when you get charged $40 late fees on a rental of Apollo 13, to a game-changing cultural phenomenon.

There are many, many mind-blowing facts and figures about Netflix out there in the ether. Given its enormous rise, and the speed in which it has taken over the entertainment world, crazy statistics and pieces of information are inevitable…

10. Netflix Has Changed American Language


The queue is a bit of a time honoured tradition in the UK. Brits are so damn good at queuing up for things in an orderly and patient manner that they should really stop pretending football is the national sport, and change it to the one activity in which they are doubtlessly the world leaders. Queueing is so taken for granted in the UK (and in her colonies) that the word itself is barely even thought about. Queueing is simply that thing you do. That’s not the case in the USA.

In the USA you dont queue for the things, you stand in line. But as Netflix has exploded in popularity over the past two decades more and more Americans have started adopting the distinctly British term, to the point where its new ubiquity has become the focus of multiple news articles and podcasts, all fascinated by how such a distinctly British term, could so rapidly catch hold in a country that stubbornly refuses to speak English correctly.

Netflix started using the term queue because in its early development days, the company’s chief product officer Neil Hunt used the word in the programming without even really thinking. Hunt is a Brit himself so to him the word came as naturally as talking about the weather. Inevitably as the service grew and grew it caused more questions from users who had absolutely no concept of what the term queue meant, which of course caused headaches for the ever-growing staff who had to translate English English to American English.

Regardless of the initial (and at times, ongoing) confusion though, the word has taken enough of a hold in the American psyche that tens of millions now use the word without even thinking. And that sea-change is all thanks to Netflix and an absent-minded mistake by an early developer. It’s probably only a matter of time though until it’s soon spelled cue.

9. Netflix Is Ruthless With Firings  And The Person Who Made It That Way Got Fired

There is a philosophy that Netflix absolutely prides itself on with its employees – and that is the concept that how hard you work does not matter. What matters to Netflix isnt the quantity of work as much as the quality. They even have an infamous manifesto that outlines the basics of this spirit entitled Netflix Culture Freedom and Responsibility, which succinctly explains to Netflix staff that they are in essence part of a pro sports team working for a common goal. And like any fine EPL club for example, if you don’t perform you’re gone at the drop of a hat.

It’s actually not as cold as it sounds. Patty McCord, who was the chief talent officer from 1998 to 2012 at Netflix, is the main parent behind this philosophy. McCord believed that getting the best of her staff required the maximum freedom possible to encourage curiosity and aspirational behaviour. But in exchange for that freedom her staff had to be constantly contributing. McCord despised the idea of having staff that were mindlessly doing activities for long hours without actually helping change the company. She wanted to be able to keep the freshest ideas and contributions possible, and she didn’t want to babysit adults.

This has been understandably controversial and devastating at times for staff who have been dropped the moment their contributions to the organisations have been seen to waver. What is perversely ironic though is that nobody knows this reality quite like McCord herself, as she revealed in an extensive interview with NPR’s Planet Money podcast. After getting extremely sick and having to take considerable time off work, McCord was eventually dropped from the company herself as her contributions weren’t felt to be enough, and it was felt that she was violating her own philosophy.

Sadly for her she had to finally feel the callousness of her own philosophy come back to bite her in the bum.

8. There Was A Hidden Test Show On Netflix


If you are ever at a pub quiz, and the question of what Netflix’s first original piece of programming was, is raised by the quizmaster, you can be that person everyone hates by disputing anybody who replied House of Cards. The correct answer for true Netflix aficionados is Example Show.

Some of you might already be familiar with this weird piece of original programming, but given how many millions of people use Netflix, it’s amazing how this secret show has flown under the radar, considering it’s still in the library ready for anyone to stream. The eleven minutes exercise in surreal balls-trippery was basically exactly what it says in the title – an example of the technical capabilities built into the Netflix programme. And here it is…

Filmed at Netflix HQ in California, there is actually a method to the apparent madness. All of the shots and recorded images are specifically chosen to test out the capabilities of the Netflix technology. So that ball bouncing that gets a lingering shot like something out of a student art film is actually there for a deliberate reason as opposed to simply being a lame expression of an 18-year-old’s frustrated sexual desires.

7. The Number Of Hours Netflix Is Watched Per Month


In 2017, Netflix was watched an average of 140 MILLION hours every single day. ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY MILLION! That works out at 4.2 BILLION per month. That’s a lot of Drag Race.

Our brains are not evolved to conceive of numbers that large. We only need to visualise three or four things at most, so the absurdity of that figure is basically incomprehensible to us. Four billion might as well be a googly, boogly, squintrillion, gazillion Nathan Fillion for all it matters to us peons.

But just to help try and give some sort of scope to how insane those numbers are, here is a video that tries to explain what a billion dollars would look like.

Now let’s multiply those numbers in the video by four. And if you can, try and visualise each of those little 100,000s in the Notepad document he is using, as sixty minutes of time (or 3600 seconds if youre particularly nuts). Then you’ll start to get a visual picture of just how much time is dedicated to Netflix streaming. EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH.

6. Blockbuster Could Have Owned Netflix


Technology evolves at an exponential rate today, which in turn has implications for the future that are both incredibly exciting, and bladder bustlingly terrifying. But in the context of human history, this exponential increase in technological development is relatively new. And given that it is so new, most of us naturally struggle to see that lots of the technologies and services we use now will very soon be obsolete.

Even more noticeably, most of us struggle to even imagine what technological innovation will change the world next week. Blockbuster was the go to video rental brand in the USA and many other parts of the world following its inception in 1985. There was a stage in Blockbusters history where there were nearly 10,000 stores in its family with tens of thousands of staff internationally. But much like movie studios in the 1950s who had gotten complacent due to lack of competition, Blockbuster could not see the future, and wildly underestimated the impact of technological change, and peoples affinity for the internet.

At the turn of the millennium Blockbuster was still a powerhouse and actually was offered the opportunity to purchase Netflix for a paltry $50 million. They scoffed at the idea and continued to run business at usual while basically ignoring any developments that were happening around them. As we all know Netflix had the last laugh.

By 2010 Netflix had destroyed Blockbuster’s business base so badly that the company that Viacom shelled out $8.4 billion for (in 1994 dollars no less) was bankrupt. Blockbuster went defunct in 2013, while Netflix streams several billion hours of content a month.

5. Netflix Is Older Than Google


Given how ubiquitous Google is in our lives, it’s hard to remember a time before the communications behemoth the world. Given how many people looking to start a new Netflix account will actually go to Google with their questions, it’s pretty mind-blowing to realise that once upon a time you would have probably been directed to Netflix via AltaVista (kids ask your parents).

Netflix started in 1997 after founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph launched the site to give movie buffs an alternative to the extortionate fees inherent in the old rental system. It would take another year for Google to brace the world with its presence and subsequently reshape the world in its image.

What is also incredible about this revelation though, is that it means Netflix will be turning 20 years old in 2017. Which makes this columnist personally feel incredibly old.

4. Netflix Analyses EVERYTHING

When House of Cards was launched in 2013, it really felt like there must have been some very creative executives at Netflix who really had their finegr on the pulse of the times. In 2013 prestige television like Mad Men and Breaking Bad€was really at its peak, and the decision to green light a David Fincher directed, Kevin Spacey-starring political drama that you could binge watch, seemed like a game changer.

And this makes sense because they did know. But it wasn’t intuition, or a selection of executives that really cared about television. It was because Netflix analyses just about everything, and then uses these terabytes of data to tailor every little aspect of the service in an almost obsessive compulsive manner.

House of Cards wasn’t luck, it came from watching what Netflix users watched, how they watched, and how long they watched for. Given the nature of its business and its enormous customer base, Netflix is able to analyse their content in a way that no other old media entity has ever come close to.

Pausing Family Guy to make a sandwich? Netflix won’t just make a note of that pause, but it will make a note of how long you pause for, and whether or not you complete the show after the pause, or if indeed the sandwich put you more in the mood for The Square.

Did you start a new series of Longmire but decided it wasn’t your cup of tea? Netflix has algorithms that analyse exactly when you stopped watching and will compare against every other person that watched the show to see how many more seasons there are. Netflix is a mathematicians fantasy, and a paranoid conspiraloons worst Orwellian nightmare.

3. Netflix Knows You Lie

Warner Bros.

Netflix isn’t Facebook. You can’t simply list a bunch of interests, and write status updates claiming that you’re really enjoying watching The Magnificent Ambersons, while secretly watching old episodes of Friends. Netflix knows when you’re giving higher ratings to shows and movies that you don’t really watch and/or enjoy in the effort to sound smart.

Worst of all Netflix not only knows but it expects it. So really, Netflix knows you, your insecurities, and your guilty pleasures better than you do. Try not to think about that next time you give a Wes Anderson film that you secretly hated five stars.

2. You Used To Pay For Content By The Hour


Much like the advent of portable computers that both contain the collective knowledge of mankind AND fit in your pocket, we really take the unbelievable service that Netflix provides for granted. How often do you actually sit there while streaming Peaky Blindersand think about just how incredibly cheap you are getting so much content for? If Netflix were to announce tomorrow that they were changing their payment platform and rather than paying one flat fee you would pay for content by the hour, their headquarters would burn to the ground.

Yet that’s exactly how Netflix used to run. When the online streaming service began (remember that Netflix was simply a DVD postal service for a number of years and still actually runs this part of their business today) you didn’t just get everything for ten dollars a month. You paid ten dollars and got ten hours of streaming. Which is just enough to have a binge watch of the first season of Making a Murderer.

What’s even stranger though, is that compared to how we used to rent movies even ten years ago, that is not a bad deal at all. Video stores could charge anything from $5.00 to $8.00 per night for one movie, depending on how new it was, and how generous your particular video store was. Not only that but you had to go and get the damn thing and return it or face paying extra in fines. Ten hours of content could have cost up to $80.00 which means that at a price of $1.00 per hour, it was still up to eight times less when Netflix was charging you by the hour.

Still – it will make anybody who wasted their time with ‘The Ridiculous Six’ feel like they lost any money. Just precious hours of life instead.

1. They Spend Billions Every Year

Netflix will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content in 2018

In addition to this spending on actual content, they will spend an utterly staggering $2 BILLION on marketing, which is incredible since there’s probably not many people don’t know what Netflix is already.

Two billion on marketing? How much advertising does Netflix need? Are people going to forget it’s not there? Are customers not signing up in enormous enough droves? If you dont see an ad for Netflix tomorrow are you going to think that the company has gone under?

Those figures are nothing short of astronomical. Given the infrastructure already set up and established in the organisation, this kind of aggressive spending demonstrates not only how truly massive the company is, but also just how determined they are to avoid the fate of the very organisations they ruthlessly crushed, such as Blockbuster.

So as a customer, hopefully that means a whole lot of exciting new developments in the coming years. And hopefully a whole lot more Daredevil episodes to boot.

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