Recap: Next month will mark the end of an era for Netflix. The streaming giant that began life as a DVD-by-mail subscription company is killing off the famed red envelopes, and to say thanks to customers, it is sending them up to 10 extra discs.
Netflix launched its streaming service in 2007. But it had been offering DVDs by mail since 1997, the year it was founded, offering the public an alternative to going to the local video rental store. The very first DVD it sent out was Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, marking the beginning of the end for stores like Blockbuster.
In April, Netflix announced that after 25 years, it will send out the last red envelope. Collider reports that those who still use the service – yes, there are some – have been offered the chance to receive a few extra mystery discs in the mail – up to ten.
On September 29th, 2023, we will send out the last red envelope. It has been a true pleasure and honor to deliver movie nights to our wonderful members for 25 years. Thank you for being part of this incredible journey, including this final season of red envelopes. pic.twitter.com/9lAntaL2ww– DVD Netflix (@dvdnetflix) April 18, 2023
"Let's have some fun for our finale!" states an email sent to customers. "You won't know if any extra envelopes are headed your way until they arrive in your mailbox!"
The fun part refers to customers not knowing how many DVDs will arrive until the red envelopes are in their hands. Participants (US only) are required to opt in before August 29th if they want to take part. There's also a warning about limited quantities and the offer only being valid while supplies last.
Netflix says in its FAQs that it will continue to accept DVD returns up until October 27, 2023. However, there's confusion among customers about what to do with the discs as Netflix doesn't specifically state that they must be returned.
There are plenty of customers on Reddit who say they intend to keep the DVDs as Netflix appears to be implying such action would be okay. It's also been speculated that letting customers have them could be an easy way for the company to offload thousands of discs.
However, a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to NPR that it is expecting customers to send the DVDs back, and plans to release more details as the end date draws closer.
A lawyer weighed in on the issue, explaining that Netflix is not in a position to freely distribute the DVDs even if it wished to. This stems from the agreements with filmmakers and intellectual property rights owners: the company is granted a license, which is then sub-licensed to its subscribers. Therefore, Netflix is unable to transfer ownership of the DVDs, as it does not hold ownership rights itself.