Back in 2007, before Netflix was the streaming powerhouse that it is today, the company was working on its own set-top box that would be competing with the likes of the Apple TV and the Roku. The company spent a lot of time and money on the device’s development, and was actually so close to releasing it that it had started filming promotional videos that were to appear as advertisements on Netflix’s website, but obviously that never happened. The reason for this isn’t because the company was afraid to enter the hardware market, it was because it became more ambitious. Netflix’s leadership wanted the service to be on every device and every platform, and it wouldn’t be able to do that if it was competing with companies like Apple in the hardware market, so it decided to scrap the project entirely.
In 2007, Netflix was just putting the finishing touches on its own streaming device, a box that would have been Netflix’s version of the Roku or Apple TV. The company was so close to releasing it that they had begun to shoot promotional videos that were to appear on the website, according to Netflix’s former director of global marketing Barry Enderwick. Lots of time and money had been sunk into the development of the device, but Netflix decided to kill it. Why? Because Netflix’s vision had become bigger. “Our strategy was to have Netflix on every device capable of connecting to the Internet,” Enderwick explains. “To do that, we would have to convince major brands like Samsung, Microsoft, and Sony to include Netflix on their Blu-ray players, game consoles, and streaming devices.” These brands wouldn’t be so eager to work with Netflix if the company was trying to compete with them on hardware. “Hardware was an industry that we had no internal knowledge of until we hired Anthony Wood, CEO of Roku,” Enderwick says. It wasn’t their specialty. That doesn’t mean that Netflix’s streaming box would have been a flop, but Netflix’s leadership decided it just wasn’t worth it to compromise the company’s long-term plan, which would need the support of prominent hardware companies.