Netflix went public 15 years ago today. May 23, 2002.
Back then, the company’s business model was mailing you DVDs in red envelopes. Its internet strategy was letting you set up the queue of movies you wanted to receive.
There was no streaming media yet. Blockbuster was still a legitimate threat. It might as well have been the 1980s — like it is on the Netflix cult sci-fi hit “Stranger Things.”
Flash forward to May 2017.
Netflix is now a legitimate global media giant that not only allows you to watch shows and movies made by big Hollywood studios instantly on your TV and mobile devices, it also has scores of popular, award-winning original hits.
And any investor who was bold enough (a Daredevil, perhaps?) to make a bet on Netflix and its CEO Reed Hastings back in 2002 would be filthy rich today.
According to the company’s investor relations site, $1,000 invested on the day of the IPO is now worth nearly $140,000 today. That’s a staggering return of more than 14,000%. Orange is the New Black? More like green for long-time Netflix investors.
To put that into perspective, the tech heavy Nasdaq is “only” up about 320% during the same time frame.
Other tech giants such as Apple and Amazon have lagged Netflix too, but you should hardly be complaining if you invested in them. Amazon’s stock has gained nearly 6,000% since Netflix’s IPO while Apple is up about 12,000%.
Netflix has also outperformed shares of Google owner Alphabet since Google’s splashy IPO in the summer of 2004. Google’s stock has gained nearly 1,800% since it went public while Netflix is up more than 7,000% during the same time frame.
And the stock has done better than Facebook as well. Facebook recently celebrated the 5-year anniversary of its IPO. Shares of Mark Zuckerberg’s company have gained about 300%. Netflix is up nearly 1,500%.
Netflix is now worth nearly $68 billion. That’s more than Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. It’s nearly $30 billion higher than the combined valuations of former corporate cousins CBS and Viacom.
And it’s only $10 billion less than CNNMoney parent company Time Warner. (Netflix has come a long way from when Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes compared it in 2010 to the Albanian army, saying that Netflix would not be a threat to big media firms.)
It’s been a crazy 15 years though. Netflix has been occasionally the subject of Wall Street takeover rumors. Some investors doubted that the move to streaming would ever pay off.
And then there was that whole debacle in 2011 when Netflix proposed spinning off the DVD business and rebranding it with the name of Qwikster.
But Netflix recovered from that PR mishap as quickly as President Frank Underwood does from scandal on “House of Cards.”
And Netflix stock — just like the titular superhero on the Netflix hit show Luke Cage — seems to be indestructible.
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Written by Paul R. La Monica for CNN.