Giving Viewers What They Want

Description: In the television business, there is no such thing as a sure thing. You can have a gold-plated director, a bankable star and a popular concept and still, it’s just a roll of the dice. Or is it?
Source: nytimes .com

Date: Feb 23, 2013


Netflix, which has 27 million subscribers in the nation and 33 million worldwide, ran the numbers. It already knew that a healthy share had streamed the work of Mr. Fincher, the director of “The Social Network,” from beginning to end. And films featuring Mr. Spacey had always done well, as had the British version of “House of Cards.” With those three circles of interest, Netflix was able to find a Venn diagram intersection that suggested that buying the series would be a very good bet on original programming.

Big bets are now being informed by Big Data, and no one knows more about audiences than Netflix. A third of the downloads on the Internet during peak periods on any given day are devoted to streamed movies from the service, according to Sandvine, a networking provider. And last year, by some estimates, more people watched movies streamed online than on physical DVDs.  Read Rest of Story

Questions for Discussion:

1. Can Big Data be the silver bullet that can determine something as subjective as a what will bea hit TV show or Movie?  Why or Why Not?

2.  What other applications can you see Netflix using there vast amount data that could create revenue streams for the company?


8 thoughts on “Giving Viewers What They Want

  1. Ashley S

    Big Data is a very useful tool, and if used accurately, will allow producers to determine whether a TV show or movie is going to be a hit or not. Big Data for shows consists of hundreds of tags that describe the many aspects of the program being watched, which is extremely useful for determining what viewers in a particular country are interested in, for both longterm and shortterm programming.
    While film and television would make focus groups and record the results, companies such as Netflix have access to enormous amounts of data. This data is essential to discovering what genres are popular, which actors have had the most success, and which shows/films have had the most success. This data can be collected to create show that will appeal to masses of viewers and will have immense popularity. Data collected shows what people are really watching on tv, rather than watching a preview and rating it, which can be less accurate when gauging interest in a particular program.
    Similarly, by using Big Data to tailor tv/movie trailers to different groups of viewers, there is a higher chance that the show will become a hit. Before, one trailer would be released, and the entire mass of viewers would watch it and decide if it were a show worth watching. However, by being able to release multiple trailers for multiple viewing groups, there is a much higher chance of drawing in interested viewers. By continuing to use data in creative ways such as this, it will become continuously easier to determine if something as subjective as a movie or tv show will be a hit.

  2. Michelle

    I think Netflix is a very unique enterprise for the services they provide but also for using Big Data all together. The company seems to be very successful at what they are doing and a lot more people today are interested in downloading and streaming movies online. There is also a limit on what you can do with Big Data but in the end it is useful for many business purposes.

    The use of Big Data can be used for many things which can help, not only their company but others as well like, movie and television producers on providing “big hits”. Having a lot of information on what people like to watch on what devices and what times during the day is a gold mine of data. Having all this data is obvious on why Netflix is so successful. They also have a lot of options on what they can do with all this data like selling it for example. Netflix has the opportunity to do so much with this data but it is still the directors/creators of movies that in the end get the credit for their creativity. The data can for sure lead them in successful directions but that is basically the limit it has.

    Although there are a lot of people today who enjoy the simplicity of downloading and streaming movies online there are still a population of people who appreciate DVDs and the creation of movies based on stories, scripts and imagination, not only in society but in the movie business as well. Having Big Data, especially if it is there, can be a useful asset as to the who, what, where, when, why, and how questions.

  3. Jeff

    Without reiterating exactly what was said in the article, I think Netflix has no hope of creating continuous hits based on big data. House of cards was no different than when HBO put out Sopranos. Sopranos was one of the first big budget uncensored TV shows, and provided viewers the feeling of being a part of something bigger than just watching another television show. This is the same appeal that House of Cards came with. Netflix will be able to put the right people in the right place at the right time, there is no doubt about that; but once the idea of a Netflix TV series or movie is no longer novel, the real challenge for Netflix will begin. And like HBO, Netflix will have to start creating new content with new faces and new ideas.

    They are however at a major advantage to do so. The trailer advertising system used for House of Cards is pure gold. Even if Netflix were to hire a no name director to create a mildly entertaining show with new actors; the information they have at hand, if used properly, will allow them to reach millions of potential viewers with trailers and various advertising methods, at a very minimal cost. However, creating a well watched TV show is much different that creating a well made TV show, and people could immediately lose faith after one or two bad releases. So using the obscenely large database is Netflix golden hen, and will help them slowly pummel cable television into the ground. But the time will come when Netflix will be held largely accountable for the quality of their programming. Not to say that they are in danger of producing a low quality show, but a hit show cannot be accredit to data merely pointing out who or what is popular. Everything that is popular, at one time, was not.

  4. Tom

    Yes i do think Big Data can predict if a future tv show will be a hit or not. If you would ask anyone what is their favorite tv shows are most like they would say game of thrones, breaking bad or suits. If most people would say thats their favorite tv shows then it would be very easy to combine the elements of all of theirs shows and make that into a tv series. Big Data helps to determine the majority of the population’s taste in tv series and by producing shows similar to the ones listed above it has a higher of it being successful.

    By having all these data about their account users Netflix could possibly take this to a farther step and work with major network or movie producers. Major networks and movie producer would die over these data because now they no longer have to take chances when it comes to making a new show or producing a new movie. They can just use the old formulas that make previous shows or movies popular.

  5. Denaye Corbeil

    I think that Big Data can be very effective in determining what television shows or movies will become big hits. Since they have large amounts of data on what genres and topics viewers are currently watching, that information can be used towards the production of similar shows. Netflix is very effective in using this method because they allow users to rate everything they watch, and that information is used to provide recommended movies and shows tailored to that individual’s previous interests and ratings. At the same time, if the same genres and topics of television shows and movies are being produced, customers will end up getting bored. There needs to be new ideas and topics constantly flowing in order to keep users interested.

    Another way that Netflix can use their vast amount of data to create revenue for their company is to work with television networks in airing new shows. Netflix can use its large quantity of data to determine the genres and topics that will most likely be of most interest to viewers and the television networks can pay Netflix to air the Netflix original shows after they have already been aired on Netflix. This will give Netflix increased revenue from the television networks and the original Netflix shows will gain more popularity of they are aired on television as well.

  6. Ashley E.

    Netflix has some valuable information, no wonder they are so successful. They are able to see what movies, genres actors and actresses their consumers want. Big data can definitely give companies an advantage on knowing where and how to invest their money. What actors and what films are brining in the bigger audiences and how successful things are in certain regions.

    Although this is very valuable information, there is still additional work that needs to be done. Script writing is a creative process and just because the numbers are big in one area doesn’t mean that is all that consumers want. People change, ideas evolve, interests change. It’s not straight across the board. I love Brad Pitt, but you couldn’t pay me to watch World War Z. I enjoy watching comedies, but won’t just watch a film because it’s labeled a comedy.

    Netflix has some significant information about the entertainment industry and consumers likes and dislikes. They could definitely use some of the information to partner with movie producers/studios in the creation process, this could be another way to financially gain from the information they have. I’m not sure how wanted the information is, or how profitable it would be. As mentioned before, the information they have is for the past trends of consumers and is not necessarily an indicator of future demands. Our likes and dislikes are always changing.

  7. Meghan

    Big Data is capable of providing valuable information to companies that may help determine what movie or TV show will be a big hit or bust. They are able to use information about what actors, genres, and directors are able to engage and draw in a significant audience, which is extremely important to the creation of a new TV show or movie. However, even with these three aspects in favour of the movie being a success, it still depends on the script and creativity involved. Engulfed by a lack of creativity, over-the-top/try-hard films or poorly written films will likely bust despite the actors, directors or genre of the film. Consumers are still interested in seeing something that intrigues them and there are definitely examples of movies that had everything going for them but busted due to bad storylines.

    Big Data can also only provide movie producers with information that is based on previous trends; they are not able to predict what people will want to watch in the future. An actor may flourish in films over a time period and according to the data should continue to be a success, and Big Data would recommend him to film producers. However, people decide that that specific actor has passed his prime and decide that they no longer want to see action films with the same storyline and actor, and choose a new stream. In this case, Big Data had all the right information based on the history but they could not predict what consumers want all the time and when their wants will change.

    Therefore, Big Data is able to help companies to a certain extent but cannot perfectly predict what consumers will want in the future based on their previous demands.

  8. Stephanie

    Big data can definitely give companies an edge when deciding what shows to produce and where to invest their money. Knowing what actors, directors and genres draw in the audience is very important when creating a new movie or TV show, however, all the data in the world will not make up for a lack of creativity or poor writing. This industry is still a form or art and there is usually that certain something that comes with success that you cannot graph or quantify. You often hear of movies underperforming and no amount of money can make up for a bad storyline.

    Netflix has access to a huge amount of data about the entertainment industry and there are many ways that they could turn this information into an extra revenue stream. They sell their search information to studios to help them determine who the most sought after actors are or what genres are the most watched. They could help TV channels determine when to air certain shows or movies based on the information they store about viewing times or even how many episodes in a row they should run during a marathon. They can tell studios what regions watch what kind of movies so they know where to focus advertising when a new movie is released. There are also many slightly more unethical ways that Netflix could capitalize on their information and data. They could sell e-mail addresses to studios so they could send out advertisements. This information will become more and more valuable over time as the amount of content and the number of subscribers increases.


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