This day, 15 years ago, Netflix Inc. (NFLX) had its IPO, and if you had the opportunity of investing in that offer, you could literally have made a fortune. If you invested say, $1,000 at the IPO price of $15 a share, your shares after considering a 2004 two-for-one stock split and reinvesting the dividend paid out in 2015, would be worth more than $139,000. A whopping 14,004.64% return!

And the company is very proud to advertise that fact on its website with a stock return calculator.

However, the company has had its own set of challenges and stock price shocks. Here’s how the Netflix saga played out over the last 15 years.


Back in the 1990s, Reid Hastings learned the hard way that DVD rentals came with hefty late fees. A Harvard Business Review article suggests a chance discovery of a borrowed copy of Apollo 13 in the back of his closet cost Hastings $40 and planted the idea of finding a solution to this problem in his mind.

Netflix was born in 1997 as a no-late-fee DVD/CD rental company that within five years grew to have 600,000 subscribers paying $19.95 a month for its services and generating revenue of more than $75 million, according to the IPO prospectus filed in 2002. The company offered 5.5 million shares to raise close to $82.5 million.

Small Screen Star

The company has come a long way since and now boasts of more than 100 million subscribers.

But that wasn’t without a few speed bumps.

With the advent of digital, in 2011, Hastings came up with a plan to split the DVD rental and streaming businesses and asked subscribers to shell out $7.99 monthly for each service separately. That didn’t go down well, and their displeasure was evident as the stock plummeted. The stock sank close to 30% in the immediate aftermath of that announcement.

Fast Forward to Growth

Netflix is no longer a rental company but a force to reckon with in the content streaming and more recently, the content generation business. The company spends a big chunk of money, estimated $1 billion on marketing its products and content, according to its recent shareholder letter.

It is investing heavily in original content after tasting success with series like ‘House of Cards.’ Netflix has the largest budget, an estimated $6 billion, committed to producing original content, far ahead of rivals like Amazon Studios, NBC and Time Warner’s HBO.

Hastings, is a man with a vision and that includes how to adapt to the future of content. Speaking at a conference earlier this year, he said that artificial intelligence could be the future of entertainment and that his company would be willing to experiment with content in virtual reality if that is what demand dictates.