Fact Check: Did Blockbuster Turn Down Chance to Buy Netflix for $50 Million

Netflix may be the world's largest provider of home entertainment today, but before the rise of the top-rated content platform and ensuing streaming services, Blockbuster ruled the market.

An upcoming original Netflix documentary takes a look at the last remaining Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, and the demise of the home video rental company.

The Claim

Netflix's preview of "The Last Blockbuster," poised for a March 15 release, drew excitement online as users noted the irony of Blockbuster's former nemesis dropping a documentary about the company.

Some users offered an alleged piece of corporate history, saying that Blockbuster turned down an opportunity to purchase Netflix for $50 million.

Blockbuster not buying Netflix for $50 million might go down as one of the biggest financial blunders in corporate business history.

— Shemar Less (@PBS_Impulse9) March 11, 2021

The Facts

When Netflix launched in 1998, Blockbuster already had a 13-year grip on the video rental industry, which Netflix hoped to improve with a rent-by-mail service, according to a 2019 profile published by The Guardian.

Netflix struggled in its early years but soon began growing its subscriber base through free trials and deals that skyrocketed its popularity. Co-founder Reed Hastings details the company's startup days in his book, "No Rules Rule: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention," in an excerpt on Marketplace.org.

Netflix's growth eventually landed Hastings and co-founder Marc Randolph at a table with former Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and other top executives. While Netflix was growing its subscriber base, it was losing more than it was making, and the co-founders were eager to sell, Hastings said in the excerpt.

A member of the Netflix communications team told Newsweek that Blockbuster declined to purchase Netflix for $50 million in 2000.

#Netflix is set to release a documentary titled 'The Last Blockbuster.'
Photo: David Friedman/Getty Images

Trailer: https://t.co/ldiCc3dTPe pic.twitter.com/eYL19jAk2J

— HYPEBEAST (@HYPEBEAST) March 10, 2021

In Randolph's book "That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea," and Hastings' book, the entrepreneurs recounted Antioco declining their $50 million offer, The Guardian reported.

According to the excerpt on Marketplace.org, Hastings and Randolph left Blockbuster's offices crestfallen, and a 2013 article from Variety recounting the botched deal quotes a former Blockbuster executive: "We had the option to buy Netflix for $50 million and we didn't do it. They were losing money. They came around a few times."

Antioco could not be reached for comment.

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said the company had reached 200 million subscribers. As of the close of the market Thursday, Netflix had a market cap of more than $231 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.

The Ruling

True.

Both Netflix co-founders document that they offered the company to Blockbuster for $50 million in 2000. Blockbuster declined. Netflix is now worth about $231 billion.

Blockbuster Exterior
The location in Bend, Oregon became the last standing Blockbuster store in 2018 when two locations in Alaska shut their doors for good. Blockbuster