How the VCR paved the way for Netflix

by Rick Roberts
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When you look at the innovations in technology over time few are starker than in the video landscape. As you sit at home tonight watching Netflix consider how much this approach has changed. It all began with the VCR.

Before Netflix most people pirated. At that time pirating was a huge problem for all movie and TV show producers and still is, but Netflix showed that consumers were willing to pay for legal content if it was provided in an easy to use manner at a fair price. Before downloads and streaming, the DVD reigned supreme. DVD rental stores were a common sight on nearly every commercial street and DVD sales were booming. The act of going to the DVD store on a Friday night to pick up a movie to watch at home was seen as a treat, whereas now watching any film at home is something we take for granted. The actual act of how we watch movies has changed how we perceive the moment itself.

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Of course, before we ever called it a DVD store it was a video store. Many of us still called these shops video stores long after videos were no longer being sold or rented. Videos were what brought movies and films into the modern home. Before that video was so expensive that only film studios could afford to have them. 

The VRX-1000 was the first video recorder. It was released in 1956 and came with a price tag of $50,000 (which would be equivalent to $400,000 today). In the 60s and 70s, companies like Sony and JVC started to manufacturer solutions for the average home. While there were numerous competing technologies at the time, two stood out. The VCR and Betamax. The battle between the VCR and Betamax is now told in every business lecture across the world. The Betamax was the superior technology but positioned badly in the market and so VCR adoption took off. Before long the Betamax was extinct. 

VCR became a staple of every home. They were used to record favorite television shows and to rent and buy favorite movies. The phrase “be kind, rewind” was known by everyone in the 90s but understood by nobody anymore. At the time VCRs didn’t self rewind so if you didn’t do it you were forcing the next person to rewind it. It was seen as a kind act to do it for them. 

VCRs paved the way for the DVD and the more modern streaming and digital content. What the next step or platform of movies will be, who knows. One thing is for certain, it won’t be Betamax

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