The Voice of the People is Data

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If you’re a Netflix subscriber, in all likelihood you’re a big fan of “House of Cards.” Netflix designed it that way.

With the release of “House of Cards” Netflix began the Moneyball-era of content production. The majority of Netflix subscribers watch Kevin Spacey, political thrillers and David Fincher’s movies. Guess what? “House of Cards” has all three.

In baseball, on-base percentage is the best predictive metric for team success. In content production, the best predictor is user viewership behavior.

Because of Netflix’s scale, 25M+ subscribers, and because of its highly granular recommendation technology which measures viewership on a per household basis and includes all the metadata (actors, directors, plot) about each movie and TV show, Netflix has arguably the best return-on-investment calculator for content on the planet.

This content evaluation machine drove the decision to resurrect the cancelled “Arrested Development” series. Now a terrifically successful show, “Family Guy” was also cancelled. But it wasn’t the studio chiefs who decided to return the show to prime time. By the thousands, fans complained loudly enough to convince FOX of the inaccuracies of their data, rescuing the show and driving billions of revenue to FOX. How many of these kinds of mistakes have been made? It’s impossible to say.

Data-driven content production will come to dominate TVs and movies. We know the models work - we have seen it first hand on the web - and in order to survive, access to such data will be table stakes in the entertainment industry.

Like Netflix, the raft of startups is building channels on YouTube including Machinima, Maker Studios and many others leverage viewership data to tune and match their content to their viewers' desires. These channels represent the future of television - a future in which the demands of viewers are satisfied because the shows are tailored to them.

Feb 2, 2013

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