How Does Netflix Make Money? Business Model Explained

Netflix has emerged as the world’s leading over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, redefining the way we consume media. 

With 8.3 million paying customers across 190 countries, Netflix has revolutionized the concept of ‘binge-watching’ and made ‘me time’ at home a valued commodity. Yet, one question that continues to intrigue many is – how does Netflix make money? 

This article aims to explore the various revenue streams that contribute to Netflix’s financial success.

The Genesis of Netflix

Understanding Netflix’s revenue model requires a retrospective look at the company’s journey. 

What started in 1997 as a humble at-home DVD rental business, Netflix evolved into an OTT streaming platform, making its mark on the global entertainment scene by 2017. 

Its foray into original content production in 2013 further elevated its status, contributing to its staggering valuation of $141 billion in 2023.

Netflix’s Revenue Streams

Netflix’s financial success rests on three primary pillars – subscriptions, partnerships, and ad revenue. With subscriptions and partnerships accounting for nearly 90% of its total revenue, Netflix’s business model is a lesson in strategic monetization.

1. Subscription-based Model

Netflix’s primary revenue source is its subscription-based model. It offers three tiers – basic, standard, and premium, each with distinct features.

  • The basic plan, priced at $8.99, permits streaming on one screen in standard definition.
  • The standard plan, costing $13.99, allows high-definition streaming on two screens concurrently.
  • The premium plan, at $17.99, offers 4K Ultra HD video streaming on up to four devices simultaneously.

The first month is free across all tiers, a strategy designed to attract new subscribers.

2. Strategic Partnerships

To ensure a diverse and compelling content library, Netflix collaborates with movie producers, writers, filmmakers, and animators to acquire and legally broadcast content. Additionally, the company forms partnerships with internet service providers to enhance the streaming experience for its users. Netflix’s revenue streams are divided into two categories:

  • Domestic Streaming: This revenue is derived from monthly membership payments within the United States.
  • International Streaming: Netflix generates revenue from monthly membership fees for services exclusively focused on streaming content to subscribers outside of the United States.

These partnerships and collaborations contribute significantly to Netflix’s financial success.

3. Advertising Revenue

While not its primary income source, advertising contributes a small but important percentage to Netflix’s total revenue.

Expenses: The Costs Behind Netflix’s Profit

To maintain its dominant position, Netflix incurs various costs, ranging from content licensing and production to marketing and technology development.

1. Licensing Cost

To provide a vast array of shows and movies, Netflix incurs substantial licensing and content acquisition costs, ensuring a legal environment for streaming.

2. Production Cost

With the launch of Netflix Originals in 2013, the company undertook large-scale content production, thereby incurring significant costs. The production of original content, though expensive, is a strategic move to provide exclusive content and reduce dependency on licensed content.

3. Marketing Cost

In a competitive market with players like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Hotstar, Netflix spends considerably on marketing. This includes advertising expenses, affiliate payments, device partner fees, and the cost of the free first month offered to new subscribers.

4. Research and Development Cost

Innovation is at the heart of Netflix’s business model. Hence, the company invests heavily in research and development, pioneering strategies that keep it ahead in the market.

5. Technology and Development Cost

To ensure a smooth, lag-free streaming experience for millions of users, Netflix collaborates with numerous internet service providers and invests in advanced streaming technology and infrastructure development.

6. General and Administrative Cost

These expenses cover payroll, human resources, professional fees, and other administrative costs associated with running the company.

7. Miscellaneous Cost

Netflix also incurs a host of other costs, including payment processing fees, DVD postage for its legacy rental service, and the amortization of its streaming content library.


Netflix, with its ground-breaking OTT services, has become a global phenomenon. Its diverse content portfolio, culturally resonant shows, and innovative business practices make it a force to reckon with in the entertainment industry. 

The primary driver of Netflix’s impressive earnings is its dedicated user base, underscoring the company’s successful efforts in creating a service that resonates with millions worldwide. 

Despite significant costs, Netflix’s strategic approach to revenue generation ensures its position as one of the most successful online video platforms of our time.

Leave a Comment