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The rise of Netflix and the remaking of home entertainment

Oct 12, 2012

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“Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs” by Gina Keating Credit: Portfolio

According to the Urban Dictionary, “Netflixing” means “watching any TV show, movie, documentary, etc. on NetFlix via instant streaming.” Getting “Netflixed,” however, has a less benign meaning: “to screw the consumer over viciously by jacking the rates of whatever service you provide.”

In her new book “Netflixed,” financial and media writer Gina Keating details the story of how one company transformed the movie-watching habits of a generation, and gave Americans even more reason to stay home on Saturday nights. Hard to imagine that there could be much drama, intrigue and page-turning narrative in the saga of home entertainment, but Keating has churned it into what one reviewer called a “lively, canny business potboiler.”

Urban legend has it that the idea for Netflix was born when founder Reed Hastings was slapped with a $40 fine for an overdue copy of Apollo 13; in interviews with key players like co-founder Marc Randolph, Keating debunks that and other rumors, getting to a truth she says was “more fascinating than I imagined.”

The book dishes deep dirt surrounding Netflix’ dizzying rise to the top against massive odds: its long-standing rivalry with rental giant Blockbuster, its taking on and more-or-less vanquishing of both the videocassette and the brick-and-mortar rental outlet, and Hastings’ disastrous decision last year to raise subscription prices by as much as 60%, resulting in fierce consumer backlash – and that not-so-flattering Urban Dictionary definition.

Who won the battle for your famly’s eyeballs? Did home DVD delivery change your movie-watching habits? Have you been “Netflixed?”

Guest:

Gina Keating, author of “Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs” (Portfolio/Penguin) and former staff writer for Reuters and United Press International

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