In Depth

Column: What Would Netflix Do?

Influential media blogger Jeff Jarvis’ recently released book “What Would Google Do?” suggests that businesses can look to the search giant’s success as an example of how to approach the future.

But I think the key question for media companies is, what would Netflix do?


SEE IT NOW Netflix has over 12,000 titles available on its "Watch Instantly" feature.

Netflix is a company that made some big stumbles in new media but then got its act together. Now it’s one of the few companies that’s not just outperforming the market (admittedly, that’s not hard to do now), but is acting as if it’s leading a bull market.

Netflix is a model of relentless innovation, which is why media companies should look to emulate what Netflix has done in the last year.

I don’t mean copy Netflix. Instead, television networks, studios, online media companies and advertisers should study how Netflix has molded its business to the changing consumer and ask how they can do the same for their businesses.

Here’s why. With its core DVD-mail business, Netflix is based on one of the oldest of old mediums—the U.S. Mail. But the company’s fortunes are skyrocketing now that it has added multiple paths to broadband viewing. Those include its “Watch Instantly” feature that allows users to stream more than 12,000 titles on their computers, Xboxes, Roku boxes or LG and Samsung TVs right away.

That’s the key to the company’s success. Netflix shifted quickly to serve the instant-gratification needs of broadband video consumers, meeting them where they are.

The results speak for themselves. Earlier this month, Netflix said it passed the 10 million-subscriber mark after adding 600,000 new subscribers in the first six weeks of this year alone. That’s after posting a 45% profit in the fourth quarter, based on adding 718,000 new customers that quarter, more than double what the company expected.

Netflix says its new streaming options are driving a lot of this growth. The company’s Xbox partnership kicked off just three months ago and already more than 1 million Xbox users have activated the streaming-video service on their gaming consoles and have watched 1.5 billion minutes of movies and TV shows.

With its multiple points of entry, Netflix is becoming a must-have for consumers who are ditching cable service and opting for Internet video viewing online. But that’s just one component of the success story. All the pieces are coming together and the overall takeaway is that Netflix has adapted to the change in the market.

What can you do to Netflix your company? How can you move equally quickly to shape your products and services into the forms your customers want?