Netflix and the Shifting Media Landscape

by Peter Kirby

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Netflix has changed a lot over the years, but its red envelope remains distinctive.

Netflix’s recent history as a company is almost as compelling as the films and TV shows it offers subscribers access to. A success story from the early days of the dot-com boom, Netflix was founded in 1997, offering its customers DVDs by mail. Since then it’s grown to become a leading figure in a rapidly shifting media landscape. The popularity of its instant-streaming service has exploded in recent years, positioning Netflix as a competitor with cable and other traditional content providers.

Accordingly, it’s stock had soared to a price of nearly $300 a share by the summer of 2011. The announcement of plans to split their streaming and by-mail services, though, soon caused an intensely negative public reaction, and the stock plummeted. It fell as low as $63 dollars by the end of the year. Some parts of the announced plans were abandoned, and the stock recovered slightly. It currently stands at $76.90.

The company has been in the news within the last week due to a major investment by Carl C. Icahn. Icahn was described in a recent NYTimes article as an “activist investor”, someone who will “agitate for change or a quick sale”.

Whatever the result of these latest developments though, the future of Netflix will be fascinating to watch. The nature of online media distribution might well depend upon it.

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