The Competitive Advantage of Netflix

By Yossi Feinberg, Christy Johnson
2017 | Case No. SM268 | Length 23 pgs.

In 1997 Reed Hastings founded Netflix on the heels of a $750 million exit of his first venture—a software company. The premise was simple: Hastings believed that he could leverage the high-performance culture and data-drivenness embodied by tech companies to succeed in the DVD-rental-by mail business.  Within a decade Netflix was bringing in more than a $1 billion in revenue a year and revered as one of the most innovative companies in Silicon Valley. This case covers four distinct eras of Netflix, spanning from 1997 to 2015: A.) the Pre-IPO Era, within which Netflix withstood the dot com bubble and settled on a successful DVD-rental-by-mail business model; B.) The DVD Growth era, within which they held an initial public offering and scaled their business to more than 850,000 subscribers; C.) The Introduction of Streaming era, where Netflix introduced their online video-on-demand service and eventually pivoted to offering streaming only subscriptions; and D.) the Content era, within which Netflix began producing their own exclusive television shows and movies to in response to the ever rising costs of content licensing. 

Learning Objective

The goal of this case is to encourage students to think about competitive advantage in the context of a rapid growth technology company and changing consumer preferences.
This material is available for download by current Stanford GSB students, faculty, and staff, as well as Stanford GSB alumni. For inquires, contact the Case Writing Office. Download