In the last article on The Netflix Method I focused on arguing for the use of analytics in the creative process. I believe that it can guide and constrain your creative process toward projects that can be artistically rewarding and financially profitable. This time let’s explore how Netflix actually did that when creating House of Cards and other Netflix Original Series programming.
Netflix gathers a lot of data on its users, as you know, and can see a lot more than what shows you’ve watched and what you liked. Netflix infact has algorithms dedicated to tracking your behavior (how long you watch, when you pause, when you fast forward or rewind) and then modifying what you see on Netflix based on that behavior. Creepy, right? Well, maybe, but there are so many users that no one at Netflix really cares that you streamed Sharknado, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
According to Statista.com there were 74.46 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. If Joris Evers’ statement is still accurate (and I’d bet it is) then “there are [74.46] million different versions of Netflix. And that’s a good thing, because all the tracking means that Netflix is going to try to suggest to you something that you might be interested in and show you stuff that you are likely going to want to watch.
It’s this idea that I want you to use on your next film. Sure, Netflix has a lot of big data on its customers and you probably have very little. Start generating some! But let’s say you’re sold on that and promise to start tracking your audiences behavior here on out, how can that help the film your starting now? The answer is, you have to go out and find some data on the audience you want to tell your story to. Actually, doing this might be a better way to come up with your story!
This is what Netflix did (does) when they greenlight House of Cards. See, they had all this data, but they weren’t sure what exactly it all meant. It didn’t scream “This is your only choice!!!” What it did is show a trend or give Netflix heads a feeling for where their customers wanted to go.
There were three main trends: Customers streamed and enjoyed the British/original House of Cards show, they watched and liked a lot of movies with Kevin Spacey, and they watched and liked a lot of movies directed by David Fitcher. Netflix mixed them all up and you know the rest.
Now, there are pitfalls here. Amazon got off to a rocky start with this for Amazon Prime. But if you find a niche audience and then start following the data you’re going to learn what it is that your audience likes. Then its up to you to follow those insights to provide them with something that will truly wow them and put big money in your pocket (like practical joke money… like what rapper clowns might have at a hip-hop circus).
If you want to get a little deeper on how Netflix uses big data (film analytics as I like to call it) then pop on over to KissMetrics.com where I found the thread for this posting.
What are you doing to track your target audience? Share your tips, tools, and advice.