Timmy Yoon (Randall Park) is an analog dreamer in a 5G world. He’s spent his entire adult life dedicated to his first love, movies — a passion that’s kept him at his first and only job, managing his hometown Blockbuster Video.
Then Timmy is alarmed to learn that his store is officially the last Blockbuster in America. He now has no choice but to take action to stay open and keep his friends employed. Timmy and his staff quickly come to realize that being home to the last Blockbuster might actually be exactly what their community needs to rekindle the human connections they lost to the digital age. It also unexpectedly reunites him with his long-time crush Eliza (Melissa Fumero), who’s recently come back to work for him. Will this battle to preserve the past be the push Timmy needs to step into the present? His employees can only hope so.
No offense to people interested in the premise of this show but this is not something I’m going to be tuning into. What does attract my interest every time however is the story of Netflix putting Blockbuster out of existence. It’s a pretty crazy story that’s even crazier in retrospect, one of those “how could Blockbuster have been so short sighted and stupid?” case studies they’ll probably be teaching in business classes around the country for years to come.
The story goes, that as Netflix began to ramp up their subscriber base of ship-direct-to-you DVD rentals, they struggled to make ends meet after the dot com crash. They decided to move into an online model where people could download some movies and shows as a quicker and more convenient feature. Blockbuster barely gave a shit or noticed. They never really perceived them as much of a threat but were interested in their business model and after months of requesting, Blockbuster’s head honchos finally agreed to a meeting with them. So Netflix’ CEO Marc Randolph flew with his cofounder to meet with them in Dallas and pitch the idea of Blockbuster buying them out. Blockbuster’s CEO, John Antioco, brushed off the idea, but was curious what price the Netflix guys were thinking. When they replied $50 million they were basically laughed out of the room.
To put it in perspective, at Netflix’ height of dominance in early 2022 they were doing $20 BILLION a year in revenue.
What happened next everybody knows by now. Everything went digital, Netflix took off like a rocket ship when it went to a full online streaming model, internet and compression technology advance, and Blockbuster was essentially decimated.
(For a great retelling of the story from the man himself, and how Blockbuster’s entire business model was built on the notion of late fees, you can read “That Will Never Work” by Marc Randolph, or listen to the awesome interview he did on Tim Ferriss’ podcast retelling the story)
Can you imagine the amount of regret Blockbuster’s brain-trust must have for having that much pride and being that dumb to scoff at an offer of $50 million, then getting wiped from the face of the Earth because of it?
I wonder if this show will allude to Netflix running Blockbuster into the ground and their dominance in a round-about pat-yourself-on-the-back sort of way and nod to history?
p.s.- one thing I will say is spending an hour aimlessly strolling the aisles in blockbuster scanning the VHS box selection to see what they actually had in stock (the brand new stuff everybody wanted to rent was never available) was still a million times better than aimlessly scrolling through Netflix’ library for something to watch. Their suggestions suck, and their top 10 swallows.
p.p.s. - never forget the time the late, great Paul Bearer visited a Blockbuster