×

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.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

  • Pod Save America Hosts on Trump

    'Pod Save America' Hosts on Trump, the Democratic Primary and What's Wrong With Cable News

    Like many Democrats, Tanya Somanader was blindsided by the 2016 presidential election. A veteran of the Obama White House and a former speechwriter and digital specialist for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Somanader was gearing up for a Hillary Clinton administration. Instead, she had to grapple with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency. “A lot [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein to Be Arraigned on New Indictment

    Harvey Weinstein is set to appear in court on Monday for an arraignment on a new indictment, the Manhattan D.A.’s office said Thursday. Prosecutors announced last week that they would seek a fresh indictment, which would allow actress Annabella Sciorra to testify at Weinstein’s trial. The move came after Justice James Burke ruled on Aug. [...]

  • AI Technology David Beckham

    How AI Tech Is Changing Dubbing, Making Stars Like David Beckham Multilingual

    David Beckham does not speak Arabic, Hindi or Mandarin. But when the soccer legend starred in a PSA for malaria awareness this spring, he effortlessly switched among these and six other languages, thanks to cutting-edge technology that could soon change how Hollywood localizes its movies and TV shows. The PSA in question was produced with technology [...]

  • Eminem Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Copyright

    Eminem Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Massive Copyright Infringement

    Eight Mile Style, a publishing company that holds administration rights to Eminem’s early catalog, filed a major copyright infringement lawsuit against Spotify late Thursday, claiming that the streaming giant has no license to host about 250 of Eminem’s songs, while also taking aim at the Music Modernization Act, the federal law enacted last year to [...]

  • iQIYI headquarters building in Beijing

    China’s iQIYI in Talks for Indonesia Expansion

    Chinese streaming firm iQIYI is in negotiations to expand further into Southeast Asia through a venture with Indonesia’s Media Nusantara Citra. iQIYI announced its first step outside Chinese-majority territories in June, when it revealed a linkup in Malaysia with pay-TV leader Astro. It also operates in Taiwan. In April, the company said that it planned [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content