Why Big Data is the New Black in Entertainment

Programs such as “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards” from Netflix have come together in large part because of the media company’s data-driven understanding of its viewers and its ability to determine the type of content they want.

Netflix and other broadcasters are increasingly relying on big data and analytics to strengthen their programming development to ensure they’re creating the right content, and using the actors, writers, and directors to win large audiences.

For its part, Netflix is making a major push into European markets through 2014. Understanding the viewing habits and preferences of new international audiences represents a massive big data challenge, notes Justin Ward, manager of the data science and engineering team at Netflix in a recent interview.

Netflix’s track record using big data has been impressive. Ward’s team can analyze 30 million daily “plays” to identify what viewers are watching, when they’re watching certain programming, what viewers search for and how they rate individual programs.

“We do a lot of predictive modeling,” says Ward. “We want to make sure we have early feedback on any content that’s bringing us new customers.”

The use of predictive analytics can also help entertainment decision-makers evaluate how viewers use digital platforms such as YouTube and Google research to participate in and access their favorite shows. These types of insights can then be used by programming leaders to optimize content for the digital channels most used by viewers.

Programmers are also using big data to help determine the type of content that resonates with certain key demographics sought by advertisers.

For instance, information that’s gleaned about adults ages 18 to 49 who express a strong interest in watching sports programming can be used by programming sales leaders to convince specific advertisers to purchase ad space against upcoming sporting events.

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