Netflix is using its 25th anniversary to stoke the nostalgia Gen Z loves

Reminding everyone of Netflix's hard-copy history is possibly the most effective marketing that the streaming service can offer.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings holding a batch of mail-in DVDs in 2002.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings holding a batch of mail-in DVDs in 2002.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of Netflix. Starting in 1997 with a subscription service that used envelopes packed with digital video discs (DVDs), the company launched its website the following year. Its now-ubiquitous streaming service started nearly a decade later, in 2007.

For older Netflix users, this history is well known. But for streaming’s coveted Gen Z viewer demographic, the history lesson—detailed in a new video made by the company to commemorate its unlikely risesuddenly imbues Netflix with the same kind of kitschy retro vibes that have led to booming vinyl sales, a new appreciation for decades-old film franchises, and an embrace of 1990s fashion.

Netflix’s history is an advantage when it comes to proving its commitment to its mission

The first movie ever shipped by Netflix was Beetlejuice, the 1988 horror comedy starring Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder. (Incidentally, Hollywood plans to cash in on the current nostalgia trend by releasing Beetlejuice 2, with Ryder, one of Netflix’s biggest stars via Stranger Things, and Keaton returning.)

The Story of Netflix | 25th Anniversary | Netflix

Despite challenges from all sides, Netflix is still winning the overall streaming war

The latest streaming subscriber numbers show that Amazon and Disney+ are challenging Netflix in the realm of subscription TV dominance.

But by reasserting its role as the pioneer of the space, and enjoying far more user search interest than any other service, Netflix’s anniversary highlight is a signal that, despite a battered stock price, it is still riding high from the momentum of its first-mover advantage.