When every TV network in America refused to telecast even the pilot season of House of Cards, the show’s creators turned to Netflix. The online streaming service believed so much in the show that they shelled $100 million for the first two seasons.
On February 1, 2013, when the show debuted its first season on Netflix, it was an immediate hit, and it continues to do so with its current season four. But was all that a coincidence? What made Netflix invest $100 million in an original show which was something they hadn’t done before.
Just like all the other e-commerce websites, Netflix too monitors user data. It picks up on things like – at what time you watch action, horror and humour, which scenes make you forward the video and which ones make you do a rewind, at which point you pause a video or stop it altogether and whether you watch Netflix on your TV, laptop or your phone. And that’s not all, according to Variety, Netflix also scans piracy websites to check what’s doing well online.
If you are a Netflix user, and you didn’t know about it, then we strongly suggest going back and reading the terms and agreements of Netflix.
Now, coming back to House of Cards, when Netflix got this proposal, they used Big Data to determine if the show would be a success or not. In their research, they found out that people already loved Kevin Spacey and the British version of the show. People were also fond of the director, David Fincher, who had previously shot The Social Network. When the numbers came in, there was a strong correlation and Netflix was sure that House of Cards was going to be a big hit.
Are statistics more important than creativity?
When the news about Netflix using big data broke out, many critics started talking about how the company was abusing data and hindering creativity. According to them, if big data can decide the actor, story and the director of the show then what would stop it from deciding the dialogues and the cinematography of the show?
Well, the answer isn’t as simple. Even though Netflix used big data to determine if House of Cards would be a hit, in no way did the online streaming service try to decide what kind dialogues would go into the show. In fact, if Netflix had to go completely with the statistics, they wouldn’t have agreed to Kevin Spacey talking directly to the camera. This tactic is called breaking the fourth wall, which was present in the British version of the show but it is not very common for American TV shows or movies.
And we have to remember that this is the same streaming service that came out with shows like Orange is the New Black and Jessica Jones. While OITNB would create a big stir if it were telecasted on cable TV, Jessica Jones is the first Marvel Superhero with a gritty and a grey side, and she has no fancy costume.
Let’s be honest for a minute – nobody likes to invest big bucks in something and fail. If you have a brilliant technology like big data to use and predict the results, then you are going to use it and reap its benefits.
By Ritika Tiwari