Geek Trivia

Netflix Was Created In Response To Late Fees Incurred From The Rental Of Which Movie?

Jurassic Park
Titanic
The Fifth Element
Apollo 13
Which Space Probe First Successfully Transmitted Photos Of The Lunar Surface?

Answer: Apollo 13

While necessity might be the mother of many inventions, embarrassment should get a little credit too. After a particularly high late-return fee at his local rental place, Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings started thinking about how there had to be a better way to do things. He described the moment in a 2009 column in Fortune magazine.

“The genesis of Netflix came in 1997 when I got this late fee, about $40, for Apollo 13. I remember the fee because I was embarrassed about it. That was back in the VHS days, and it got me thinking that there’s a big market out there.

So I started to investigate the idea of how to create a movie-rental business by mail. I didn’t know about DVDs, and then a friend of mine told me they were coming. I ran out to Tower Records in Santa Cruz, Calif., and mailed CDs to myself, just a disc in an envelope. It was a long 24 hours until the mail arrived back at my house, and I ripped them open and they were all in great shape. That was the big excitement point.”

Nearly two decades after the fact, Netflix is dominating not only the video disc-by-mail market, but the streaming market too. Not a bad return on investment for a $40 late fee.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.