Far From Dead, Netflix's Model Powers Upstarts

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The days of Netflix (NFLX) being a dominant DVD-by-mail company are over. The popular movie rental company has transitioned to a streaming model that allows millions of customers to view movies from a laptop or smart device. While Netflix moves away from the mailing model, several companies have lasted from the old fad of becoming the "Netflix of" their respective market.

One of the most well-known monthly subscription box services is Dollar Shave Club. The company, known for its unique YouTube commercials, offers a monthly subscription for razor blades. With monthly prices ranging from $1 to $9, the company is aggressively taking on Procter & Gamble (PG) and Energizer's (ENR) respective Gillette and Schick brands. In October, the company had 330,000 subscribers and raised an additional $12 million in funding.

Dollar Shave Club, which I recently profiled, continues to attract more subscribers as it offers new products like shaving cream and moist wipes. The company has grown substantially from its first YouTube video. In the two days after the first video went viral, Dollar Shave Club received 12,000 orders. Dollar Shave Club continues to be thriving as "the Netflix of men's grooming."

Blue Apron is one of the most interesting box-by-mail companies. The company mails ingredients for several meals directly to customers' houses, all in an iced box ensuring fresh product. Customers are given pre-measured ingredients and recipe cards for three meals, leaving only the cooking part up to them. A basic membership starts at $60 per week.

A recent funding round for Blue Apron gave the food company a $500 million valuation, based on the $50 million raised. Blue Apron ships over 600,000 meals each month. That is a significant boost from the 100,000 customers seen in August of 2013. After focusing on two options of vegetarian and meat eaters, Blue Apron is starting to cater to food allergies and diet trends, which could significantly boost its subscription base.

Blue Apron isn't a significantly cheap option for customers, as its costs around $9.99 per person per meal. The company caters to those looking to try new food items and customers considered "foodies" that enjoy watching the Food Network. Items featured in the box include roasted sweet potato and caramelized onion pizza and whole wheat spaghetti with fiddleheads.

One market where consumers probably never thought a Netflix model would work is artwork. TurningArt, a Boston-based business, hasn't let that stop them from becoming "the Netflix of art." The company was in the spotlight recently with an article in Barron's magazine.

TurningArt offers art prints for $10 a month, that customers can exchange at any time for a new piece. Shipping is free on all artwork. The company targets people who want quality artwork, but don't want to pay $100s upfront. With a growing millennial population, the company could grow with people who want to rotate pieces in their condos or apartments.

The key for growth here is businesses, in my opinion. The company has a business-targeting component, offering a unique program tailored to businesses looking to spruce up the office with new art pieces. The company even offers add-ons like installation and custom framing for businesses.

There are no subscription numbers for TurningArt, but Barron's said memberships were growing 20% a month for the past five months. The company has raised only $2 million in funding from institutions and angel investors. The company launched in 2010 and seems to have hit an untapped market by taking a cue from Netflix.

As many monthly subscription companies have disappeared and gone out of business, Birchbox has extended its dominance as the "Netflix of beauty products." Birchbox, founded in 2010, has a unique model as more of a marketer for big beauty-product companies. The company ships samples of products to customers every month, with a $10 price point.

Birchbox has grown and is now seeing new ways to capture additional monthly revenue. The company now makes full-size versions of sampled products available through its e-commerce Web site. Plans are also in the works for a brick-and-mortar store. More importantly, the recent funding will power new and improved advertising efforts and international expansion.

Birchbox has over 800,000 subscribers and reports annual revenue has hit $100 million. Birchbox recently raised $60 million in Series B funding, valuing the company at $485 million. This company could be on the path to an IPO. Consider that Birchbox has more subscribers and annual revenue than Netflix did at the time of its IPO.

Back in 2002, Netflix hit the public markets in an $82.5 million IPO. At that time, Netflix had 600,000 subscribers and annual revenue of $76 million. The company sold 5.5 million shares in its IPO and saw an initial valuation of $309 million.

Netflix had a total of 48.4 million streaming customers at the end of the first quarter. The majority of those streaming customers (35.7 million) came from the United States. The company's mail division, which has declined drastically as customers shift to streaming, stood at 6.7 million members in the first quarter. The company has seen its shares rise 3,684% since its first day on the market. The company's market capitalization is $19 billion.

Netflix shifted its business model to streaming, as competition heated up from cable providers and other streaming plays. The companies mentioned above are still dominating their respective markets with direct mailing to customers. A Netflix mailing model isn't dead after all, but alive and well in several areas.

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At the time of publication, the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

Follow Katje on Twitter @chriskatje

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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