Netflix kisses mail-order DVDs goodbye

More than 16 years after pivoting to streaming, Netflix is saying goodbye to its mail-order DVD business. The company plans to shutter the service by the end of September, it announced on Tuesday.

Ah, where has the time gone?

Netflix debuted more than 25 years ago, and at first it both rented and sold DVDs online (via a now-ancient-looking website). The company might’ve faded to irrelevance long ago had it not switched focus to streaming in 2007.

About four years later, amid backlash over planned price hikes, Netflix said it would spin off its mail-order arm into a separate business, which it (bizarrely) named “Qwikster.” Then, the company changed its mind. The spinoff plan reflected just how far Netflix had come with its streaming business. However, its execution of this idea was, frankly, pretty embarrassing.

In a eulogy on the company’s blog, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos pointed to the dwindling revenue it earns via mailed-order DVDs, and said: “To everyone who ever added a DVD to their queue or waited by the mailbox for a red envelope to arrive: thank you.”

Sarandos added, “we want to go out on a high and will be shipping our final discs on September 29, 2023.”

Netflix’s DVD rental revenue slipped to $100 million in 2022, down from the $200 million or so the company earned the prior year. At one point, Netflix’s DVD library featured more than 100,000 titles — vastly more than what the company offers via streaming in the U.S., per aggregator JustWatch.