×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Epic Fail: How Blockbuster Could Have Owned Netflix

Blockbuster chiefs lacked the vision to see how the industry was shifting under the video rental chain's feet

It will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in the boardroom: Blockbuster deciding not to buy Netflix.

But that’s what could have happened multiple times throughout the early 2000s when Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings courted a deal with Blockbuster-chief John Antioco to purchase the then DVD-by-mail rental company for $50 million (the company now has a market cap of $19.7 billion).

In 2005, Variety first reported that while Antioco was respected as a tough negotiator and strong manager, he lacked the vision to see where the homevideo industry was going and the changing shifts in the business under his feet.

“But management and vision are two separate things,” said a former high-ranking Blockbuster exec at the time, recalling, “We had the option to buy Netflix for $50 million and we didn’t do it. They were losing money. They came around a few times.”

SEE ALSO: Blockbusted! How Technology and Lack of Vision Took Down Blockbuster

Barry McCarthy, Netflix’s former chief financial officer, said in an interview with the Unofficial Stanford blog in 2008, “I remembered getting on a plane, I think sometime in 2000, with Reed [Hastings] and [Netflix co-founder] Marc Randolph and flying down to Dallas, Texas and meeting with John Antioco. Reed had the chutzpah to propose to them that we run their brand online and that they run [our] brand in the stores and they just about laughed us out of their office. At least initially, they thought we were a very small niche business. Gradually over time, as we grew our market, his thinking evolved but initially they ignored us and that was much to our advantage.”

Blockbuster would pursue other ventures. In 2000, it inked a 20-year-exclusive video-on-demand pact with Enron Broadband Services as the energy conglom launched into telecom. Blockbuster canned the pact after nine months after Enron was mired in scandal.

The company was also late to launch its own DVD-by-mail business and rental kiosks, but found it tough to compete against Netflix and Redbox.

In 2008, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes made a $1 billion-bid to buy Circuit City, but the electronics retailer closed its doors in 2009 after going bankrupt.

At the time, Wedbush Morgan Securities wrote in a research note that Blockbuster’s offer bordered “on being reckless,” and that Circuit City “appears to be in the middle of a death spiral.”

Blockbuster wound up filing for bankruptcy a year later, in 2010, when it lost $1.1 billion. The company at the time was valued at around $24 million, while Netflix’s worth rose to around $13 billion.

While Dish Network, the third-biggest U.S. pay TV operator, bought Blockbuster in 2011 for $320 million and has tried to keep its stores open, and brand relevant, the remaining 300 company operated outlets will now shutter by mid-January.

“Blockbuster was a poor strategy on our part,” Dish’s Charlie Ergen said during a call with Wall Street analysts Tuesday to discuss the company’s third quarter earnings results, noting that Blockbuster didn’t obtain streaming-video options the way competitors like Netflix or Redbox did.

It’s only fitting that whether it was a PR stunt or not, the final film rented from Blockbuster on Nov. 9 was “This Is the End.”

More Biz

  • Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to

    Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to Be Released in October

    The memoir Prince was working on at the time of his death is coming out Oct. 29, according to the Associated Press. Publisher Random House confirmed Monday that “The Beautiful Ones” will combine Prince’s unfinished manuscript with rare photos, scrapbooks and lyrics. Announced just weeks before his 2016 death, the 288-page book, issued in partnership [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale

    Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale Date

    UPDATED: The troubled Woodstock 50 festival has run into more difficulties, as multiple sources told Variety late Friday that the April 22 on-sale date for the event has been postponed. Agents for artists scheduled to perform at the festival — which include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Halsey [...]

  • National Enquirer - Jeff Bezos

    Hudson Media CEO James Cohen Purchases the National Enquirer

    Hudson Media’s CEO James Cohen announced Thursday that he will purchase the National Enquirer as well as American Media’s other tabloids, the Globe and the National Examiner. With the purchase of the National Enquirer, which Cohen reportedly bought for $100 million, he plans to strengthen their collaborative efforts, documentary shows, weekly podcasts, and theme parks. [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music’s Free Tier Is More Advertising Play Than Spotify Killer, Analysts Say

    When news began to spread last week that Amazon Music’s long-anticipated free streaming tier was imminent, headlines emerged about its threat to Spotify and Apple Music, with some stories saying that Spotify’s stock price dropped in response to the news. But not only was today’s launch of the free tier basically a soft one — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content