LOS GATOS, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Netflix ( NFLX) forced the closure of rival Movie Gallery, caused Blockbuster to implode and prompted retailers to streamline their approach to video sales en route to big-budget growth. Those were just the first items in the queue.Netflix is getting five-star reviews from investors and catching the eye of larger competitors such as Time Warner Cable ( TWC) and Comcast ( CMCSA) based on how it handled last year's tough economic climate: Sitting it down and showing it movies from the comfort of its Blu-ray players, game consoles and smartphones. While disc-based competitors struggled, with Movie Gallery declaring bankruptcy and liquidating its assets and Blockbuster closing nearly 1,000 stores and having its stock delisted from the NYSE as it struggled with debt, Netflix expanded its instant-streaming offerings and boosted the number of subscribers. In July 2009, Netflix's subscriber base was 10.6 million, its stock price hovered around $39 and its instant streaming was available primarily on Roku boxes, LG and Vizio HD televisions and Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox 360. Since that time, Netflix expanded its streaming options to Sony's ( SNE) PlayStation 3 and Bravia HD televisions; Nintendo's Wii; TiVo recorders, WD TV media boxes; Seagate media boxes; and Samsung, Sony, Panasonic ( PC), Phillips, LG, Vizio and Best Buy ( BBY) Insignia Blu-ray players. It also announced apps for Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone and iPad and demonstrated an app for Microsoft's Windows 7 Phone. To fill out its streaming library, Netflix made a series of content deals with Disney ( DIS), MTV Networks and independent filmmakers such as Criterion Collection, Gravitas Ventures, Kino Lorber, Music Box Films, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Regent Releasing. The biggest, and riskiest, deal came in January, when Netflix agreed to a partnership with Warner Brothers that engorged its catalog of instant offerings, but imposed a 28-day window between DVD and Blu-ray sales dates and Netflix availability. Seen as a last-ditch effort to fend off competitors like CoinStar's ( CSTR) Redbox and to avoid DVD purchase restrictions imposed by Target ( TGT) and Wal-Mart ( WMT) -- both of which were key to Netflix's supply chain -- the gambit worked, and similar deals were reached with Fox ( NEWS) and Universal studios in April. Today, Netflix has more than 14 million subscribers, while its base subscription price for DVDs and streaming service has held at $8.99 a month. (An update on subscribers comes July 21, when Netflix reports second-quarter earnings.) Netflix investors have scored a 194% return in the past year, with Netflix agreeing to two buybacks totaling $600 million. Netflix also topped the benchmark S&P 400 this year, with a 113% gain that outpaced the second-best performer by more than 20 percentage points and dwarfed the index's 1.3% advance. Meanwhile, Netflix's easy-going employee policy lets the company recruit and retain the best and brightest by offering them unlimited vacation days and relaxing the dress, tattoo and piercing code for its customer-service employees. The following slideshow by Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings offers a taste of what it's like to work for the Big Red Envelope, and why Netflix customers ranked the company No. 1 among Internet retailers in the in the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index:
Twitter and get more stock ideas and investing advice on our sister site, Stockpickr.com.