Roll the credits: Netflix is sending out its final DVD rental discs today

Netflix dvds on a table next to a bag of popcorn
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Karen Roach)

As of today, Netflix has officially axed the service whereby it posts physical discs of movies out for subscribers to watch.

As you may recall, this was how Netflix began way back in 1998 – as a DVD-by-mail service, long before streaming was ever an option for your movie (and TV show) viewing.

But after a quarter of a century of posting out DVDs to customers – and some five billion discs mailed, as of 2019, and no doubt more since – the service is officially shuttered. While this comes as no surprise given that Netflix informed us this was happening earlier this year (in April), it's still a momentous day.

The iconic DVD-bearing red envelopes are no more, then, with the final discs going out literally today (and subscriptions being automatically canceled). Viewers will have until October 27 to return their last batch of DVDs – but as we’ve previously reported, some subscribers will be able to keep that final disc delivery (which is a pretty cool parting gift).

Going forward, though, these folks are going to have to stream content if they want to continue with Netflix (and may want to peruse our best Netflix shows and best Netflix movies guides to see what’s out there, perhaps).

Analysis: Discontinued discs did have their positives

A stack of Netflix DVDs on a red background

(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s certainly the end of an era, though it’s difficult to see DVDs delivered by post as anything but an archaic practice at this point. 

There are still some advantages, of sorts, to a DVD mailing service – like being able to access some of the more obscure films that aren’t covered by the best streaming services.

Furthermore, for those who have poor internet connections, or just don’t want to be subject to streaming hiccups like buffering – which happens to the best of us at times – DVDs offer a local option with a guaranteed quality level. (Assuming no bugbears like scratches on the physical discs, but in our experience as Lovefilm subscribers way back, that was pretty rare).

So, the service isn’t without some plus points, but the truth is that it just wasn’t making financial sense for Netflix any longer.

Oddly, though, the streaming giant had no desire to sell off its DVD-by-mail division, even though there was definite interest in buying it (from DVD rental outfit Redbox). Make of that what you will, but the red envelopes are now very definitely a thing of the past.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).