Here is a very interesting study of how Netflix took on the better financed and entrenched players of the day, and took over. This is a true digital revolution and a cash machine to boot. There is a lot to be learned here from studying this model. I invite your comments below.

Netflix is a solid example of the Long Tail concept.

“Customers have flocked to Netflix in part because of the firm’s staggering selection. A traditional video store (and Blockbuster has some 7,800 of them) stocks roughly 3,000 DVD titles on its shelves. For comparison, Netflix is able to offer its customers a selection of over 100,000 DVDs, and rising! At traditional brick and mortar retailers, shelf space is the biggest constraint limiting a firm’s ability to offer customers what they want when they want it. Just which films, documentaries, concerts, cartoons, TV shows, and other fare make it inside the four walls of a Blockbuster store is dictated by what the average consumer is most likely to be interested in. To put it simply, Blockbuster stocks blockbusters.

Finding the right product mix and store size can be tricky. Offer too many titles in a bigger storefront and there may not be enough paying customers to justify stocking less popular titles (remember, it’s not just the cost of the DVD – firms also pay for the real-estate of a larger store, the workers, the energy to power the facility, etc.). You get the picture – there’s a breakeven point that is arrived at by considering the geographic constraint of the number of customers that can reach a location, factored in with store size, store inventory, the payback from that inventory, and the cost to own and operate the store. Anyone who has visited a video store only to find a title out-of-stock has run up against the limits of the physical store model.

But many online businesses are able to run around these limits of geography and shelf space. Internet firms that ship products can get away with having just a few highly-automated warehouses, each stocking just about all the products in a particular category. And for firms that distribute products digitally (think songs on iTunes), the efficiencies are even greater because there’s no warehouse or physical product at all (more on that later).

Offer a nearly limitless selection and something interesting happens: there’s actually more money to be made selling the obscure stuff than the hits. Music service Rhapsody makes more from songs outside of the top 10,000 than it does from songs ranked 10,000 and above. At Amazon.com, roughly 60 percent of books sold are titles that aren’t available in even the biggest Borders or Barnes & Noble Superstores4. And at Netflix, over two-thirds of DVDs shipped are from back-catalog titles, not new releases (Blockbuster outlets do about 70 percent of their business in new releases). Consider that Netflix sends out 45,000 different titles each day. That’s fifteen times the selection available at your average video store! Each quarter, roughly 95 percent of titles are viewed – that means that every few weeks Netflix is able to find a customer for nearly every DVD that has ever been commercially released.”

From John Gallaugher David becomes Goliath – Netflix case study

There are many lessons in here for the music business to pay attention to.

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