Adapt or die: Kodak V Netflix

By Holly Williams

The only constant in technology is change. As long as technology progresses then so should the businesses around tech. Put simply, adapt or die.

We all know about the downfall of Kodak. Cameras went digital and then started disappearing into mobile phones, then the vast majority stopped printing photos altogether and converted to online sharing. Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

What’s interesting is that they very nearly got it right. In 2001, before Facebook was even a single line of code, Kodak purchased a photo-sharing site called Ofoto. If they had recognised the oncoming digital era (or at least anticipated the trend), they perhaps would have seen this as a way to innovate their business and stay relevant. The purchase of Ofoto could have completely changed their game. If Kodak had decided to embrace their tagline (“share memories, share life”) and digital disruption, they could have been the forerunner in online photo sharing.

Ah, hindsight. Instead, Kodak couldn’t modify their strategy and used Ofoto as a tool to try and push people to print more digital images.

Now let’s take a trip back in time to when the likes of Blockbuster and Video Ezy (remember them?!) were in abundance. Back in 1997, Netflix began as a business that posted DVDs to customers by good old snail mail. While this method now seems a little redundant with the use of actual disks and real-life DVD players, at the time Netflix was already a pioneer of change and challenging the dominance of bricks and mortar DVD rental businesses. 

In 1999, just 2 years after initial launch, Netflix changed its model and embraced the digital era by offering an online subscription service. A year later, they introduced personalised movie recommendations based on members previous likes and dislikes. In 2008 Netflix teamed up with consumer electronics like Xbox and TV set-top boxes to get their streaming across more devices. 2010 saw Netflix hook up with tech-giant Apple and in 2013 they began offering original content – also becoming first ever internet network to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the same year.

And it continues today, with Netflix considered as a true success story for consistently acclimating tech trends, with more than 151 million paid subscribers in over 190 countries worldwide and accountable for approximately 15% of all the world’s internet bandwidth! 1

Here’s some more interesting hindsight; while Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 there was an opportunity for them to partner with Netflix in 2000. With a resounding ‘no’ from the CEO, Blockbuster cemented its eventual demise. 2

There are so many companies that have transformed their business, adapted to trends and gone on to become tech giants. And of course, there are many businesses that don’t adapt their business models that we can learn from. Embrace change, actively adapt and anticipate it. Don’t hand over your competitive edge. Look to the tech giants and see how they innovate and change their models.

We see the next evolution now. With virtual tours becoming a more engaging and necessary way to view spaces, consumers are much more likely to interact with them rather than still photography – the move to virtual reality is another Blockbuster/Kodak moment. Will your business adapt and offer consumers what they want, especially in the face of COVID-19 disrupting the world faster than any event, ever before?

1 https://fortune.com/2018/10/02/netflix-consumes-15-percent-of-global-internet-bandwidth/

2 https://www.businessinsider.com.au/blockbuster-ceo-passed-up-chance-to-buy-netflix-for-50-million-2015-7?r=US&IR=T