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Big Data is the New Black

August 22nd, 2014 by - 5,061 views

Many fans would argue that the Netflix original series “House of Cards” is the perfect television show – it has a fabulous production team, compelling leading actor, and stories of drama and betrayal that keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Turns out, this was no happy accident – this and all other Netflix series have been engineered with the use of Big Data and cloud computing to create the ideal television experience. So how does it all work?

How big data creates some of our favorite products today.

How Big Data creates some of our favorite products today.

Netflix’s bright idea in delivering content
As New York Times contributor David Carr pointed out in an article on the development of how we receive entertainment, executives analyzing viewer data to inform future programming choices is nothing new.

“Film and television producers have always used data, holding previews for focus groups and logging the results, but as a technology company that distributes and now produces content, Netflix has mind-boggling access to consumer sentiment in real time,” Carr explained.

What is new, however, is how specific this information can get thanks to data willingly provided by the millions of users who make up the cloud hosting giant Netflix’s clients. Boiled down, here is how the American version of “House of Cards” came to be – analysts recognized that David Fincher, the show’s director, was a popular director on the site and unlike most videos, viewers tended to watch his work from beginning to end. When examining which actors appeared frequently in movies or television that users would stick with for the duration, Kevin Spacey fared well as did the original British version of “House of Cards.” Although there were other successful artists on the table for the project, Netflix narrowed its scope down to these three major contributors to inform its programming decision, to great acclaim.

When it began to produce its own shows as a part of the video platform, Netflix had plenty of user-provided information to draw upon. With more than 30 million video plays logged each day in its cloud infrastructure, the company employs analysts to make note of emerging trends, both to inform future products and help identify “You May Also Enjoy” options for fans of a certain genre. The company also examines which devices are most popular for streaming and which don’t encourage further watching to decide which they will continue to develop.

Life after “House of Cards”
Although it hasn’t been with the same raging success every time, Netflix has continued to pioneer this trend of delivering content on its cloud infrastructure inspired by Big Data provided by its users. Another great example that followed “House of Cards” is the series “Orange is the New Black,” appealing to the demographic who enjoyed female-centric series and a separate audience who enjoyed either “dramedies” or pieces on prison life. The series blends a number of different genres to deliver a piece that is widely appealing and, ultimately, successful across two seasons.

Popular media blog Diginomica interviewed Netflix representative Justin Ward, manager of the data science and engineering team, about the company’s plan for expansion and how they plan to maintain their loyal base of current users.

“We also do lots of predictive modeling,” he explained to the source. “We want to make sure we have early feedback on any content that’s bringing us new customers. After one day, we can predict the lifetime value of a customer, based on their activity for that day.”

There’s no telling what heights of success Big Data will help Netflix reach in the future, but the company is certainly one of the current leaders in demonstrating cloud computing’s profound affect on the entertainment industry.

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