Netflix ended the year with yet another increase in its subscribers, bringing the total to 20 million. In other words, Netflix is now a major player in the media world.

To put Netflix’s soaring subscriber numbers in perspective, The Wall Street Journal compiled how man subscribers some of the big name cable companies have:

  • Starz – 17.4 million
  • Showtime – 18.5 million
  • HBO – 28.3 million

Why these numbers get interesting is that a deal with Starz is what really launched Netflix’s Watch Instantly streaming service.  Some in the entertainment industry have criticized the deal as it was only for $25 million a year, and when the contract comes up for renewal next year that it should be closer to $250 million a year.  Some pundits have suggested the Netflix should just buy Starz, and considering how these subscriber numbers stack up now, that may not be all that crazy of an idea.

The company also took the opportunity of its quarterly report (PDF link) to show off a mock-up of a remote with a dedicated Netflix service button.   This idea was first mentioned during CES earlier this month, and it looks like it will be a reality sooner than some people expected. Considering that Netflix had projected that it would 3.6 million subscribers in 2010, and the number ended up being 7.7 million, you have to wonder how much more they will grow when there is a permanent advertisement on people’s television remotes.

One of the other major mentions in the report was the fact that Netflix is looking to tweak how people use their accounts somewhat this year.  The current $7.99 a month streaming-only plan is for one stream at a time, meaning if someone is watching via a Roku, the family member with an iPad can’t watch something else.  Netflix plans to address that this year with new plans that will account for these viewing habits (i.e. cost more), but no word on when we will see those materialize.  The company will also be looking into Facebok integration as a means of personalizing the account to each member of the household.

Perhaps it won’t be another 7.7 million this year, but it certainly sounds like Netflix won’t stop growing any time soon.

What say you?  Are you ready for your Netflix account to become more personalized?