Big Data Turns Show Business into a Custom Assembly Line

Big Data Turns Show Business into a Custom Assembly LineWhat are you in the mood to watch tonight? Chances are, Netflix already knows. Netflix is the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, with over 27 million users accessing the service last month alone. The company looks at 30 million “plays” a day, including when you pause, rewind and fast forward. Netflix also records 4 million ratings by Netflix subscribers, 3 million searches, the time of day when shows are watched, and on what device it’s being watched on.

That’s a lot of data, so what is Netflix going to do with it?

Enter House of Cards, Netflix’s first major attempt to produce original content based on its huge silos of data. The TV series came together like a puzzle. First, Netflix discovered that many people finished the well-regarded 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name. Additionally, Netflix’s data indicated that the same subscribers who loved the original BBC show also gobbled down movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by The Social Network’s David Fincher. Ta da— a remake of the drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was born.

Not only did the amount of subscribers jump from January to February, but Netflix has already ordered an additional 13 episodes. To the chagrin of traditional broadcasting industry, the company refuses to name exactly how many people watched House of Cards. Still, Netflix has made it clear they are pushing ahead with original content, including the last season of Arrested Development to be released in May and Hemlock Grove, a horror-thriller based on a novel of the same name, to be released later this year.

Some people will argue that big data will kill creativity. Others will argue that it’s impossible to know whether these original programs are even successful or not. In reality, the creation of shows like House of Cards simply reflects a trend in every industry that works with large quantities of data. Mainly, that consumers respond better to personalized experiences.

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