Netflix: Plumbers of the Cloud
Although much was made in the blogosphere of the Amazon cloud service outage on Christmas Eve — the one that brought Netflix’s video streaming grinding to a halt — cloud media proponents should actually take heart in the news.
An interruption of cloud service being so widely referred to as an “outage” means, if nothing else, that the notion of video-on-demand (and with it, cloud computing in general) has achieved an important step toward banality; no one even thinks about a home’s plumbing until the water stops pouring from the tap, and everyone’s got a tap.
And just as, in that modern, first-world home, no one walks to the village well at their specified time for water, events suggest viewers are growing increasingly tired of waiting for their media to be delivered at its network-appointed hour. Except in the most ritualistic, “let’s go out to the movies” sense generated by a premiere or other special event, traditional cable television is being treated these days as just one more in a hundred sources of information and entertainment consumers must work into their day. You’ve got to compete to be seen, and offering a single showtime is just the kind of inflexibility that can sour the deal.
Netflix, of course, has been a revolutionary since it sent its first return-postage-paid DVD in the mail, spotting changes in viewing trends before the next guy and adjusting its business model appropriately. It’s therefore about as surprising as sunrise that they’re positioned so well with a cloud-based model, just at the time that such a model is seen as the survival solution for an industry increasingly at risk of losing its “attention share.”
When Porsche contemplated building the Cayenne, it’s first-ever SUV, they did so because a room full of marketing experts in Leipzig convinced them there was a willing market in the U.S. just ready-and-waiting to buy a Porsche-tagged sport utility (they were right). Almost a decade later, Netflix CEO Reed Hasting abandoned those sorts of experts in favor of an analytics model that told him a TV series with a certain set of characteristics would sell well, based on what the model knew about his subscribers. It was right, too; “House of Cards,” Netflix’s foray into original programming, has been immensely successful, not just because it was a good show, or was well-done, but because big data said it would be.
Hasting, of course, took things to the next level, and offered the entire first season — 13 episodes — at once, ready to stream from the cloud at the viewer’s convenience. In retrospect, again, success should have been as surprising as sunrise.
By Robb Magley