Information About Netflix

By Dan Ketchum

Exterior of the Netflix corporate headquarters.
i Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The phrase “watching Netflix” is now as ubiquitous as “watching TV” had been in decades past. Netflix didn't conquer the world straight out of the gate, however -- the company traces its history back to 1997, when it began as an online DVD rental service. In its modern iteration as the world's most prominent streaming video platform, Netflix offers an ever-changing library of video-on-demand, but you'll get more out of your time with the app if you familiarize yourself with the service beyond the basics.

A Little History

By 1999, Netflix had adopted a subscription model: when you added films you wanted to watch to your online list, or “queue,” Netflix mailed you one or two DVDs at once, which you then mailed back in exchange for other films in your queue. By the time 2007 rolled around, Netflix had shifted its focus to streaming video, netting 20 million users by 2010. Netflix's subscription-based streaming service gives you instant access to an extensive library of feature films, TV shows and documentaries via the use of a free app that's compatible with dozens of different Internet-enabled devices.

App Basics

To use Netflix, you need a subscription -- you can sign up via the app -- a broadband Internet connection, and an online-enabled device with the Netflix app. Devices such as computers, smart TVs and Blu-ray players, tablets, smartphones and video game consoles support the app, which you can download for free via your device's online marketplace. Once the app is installed and your subscription is active, you sign in with a username and password, and browse the service's video library, which includes high-definition content. You can choose to watch commercial-free movies or TV instantly, or add things you want to watch later to your queue.

Netflix by the Numbers

By early 2015, more than 57 million people in almost 50 countries subscribed to Netflix. Late 2014 data from ComScore indicated that about 32 percent of Americans had a subscription, with a significantly higher percentage among millennials and those with children. These viewers are far more likely to watch -- or even binge-watch -- shows on their own schedule rather than watching scheduled network programming on TV. Although Netflix doesn't release specific numbers, 2012 data from BGR, a website focused on the mobile and consumer electronics markets, estimated that its streaming library included about 13,000 different titles.

Catering Your Experience

Netflix attributes much of its success to its tailored user experience. A feature that began in the DVD days, the app offers recommendations based on your viewing history and how you rate the content you've watched. Depending on the device, you can create individual viewer profiles for each member of the household. You can also use one account across devices -- for instance, you might watch half a movie on your smart TV and resume it later on your tablet. In 2013 and 2014, Netflix began making a mark with Emmy-winning original content; subscribers have exclusive access to hit shows such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.