Netflix’s Big Data: Is targeted entertainment what we want?

brand targeting

Soon Australians will be able to subscribe (legally) to Netflix, as the online streaming giant announced their service will be available in Australia and New Zealand early in 2015. Being one of the 200,000 people living in this country that watches Netflix from my couch in Melbourne, using a geo-blocking software, (you can pretend you’re elsewhere in the world) I think it’s time that Australians got the chance to access reasonably priced, high quality entertainment, whenever they want, just like in the US and Europe.

Netflix has been recognised as one of the most innovative companies to emerge in the past few years, having completely transformed their business model from being primarily a mail order DVD rental service to the largest on demand online streaming provider, with over 50 million streaming subscribers globally today. They have the ability to influence and dominate the entertainment industry, all as a result of knowing everything about our habitual viewing behaviours. TV is kicking ass out of movies these days, as quality shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Homeland, The Walking Dead, Fargo, True Detective, Boardwalk Empire are attracting A-list actors and directors back to the TV scene. Our habits have changed, we want to binge-watch TV, we don’t want to watch ads, the phrase “Sure we’ll go one more!” gets said a lot in my house. The days of agonising for a week over the cliffhanger are gone!

Netflix has grabbed onto this cultural change and has been at the forefront of revolutionising the way shows are being brought to us today. They’ve always been honest about the fact that they are using “Big Data” to influence the entertainment industry. How much the public are aware of the level to which Netflix monitors our behaviours and viewing habits, I’m not sure, nor do I think we really care as long as we’re continuing to be spoiled with exceptional standard of TV shows. They have been tracking every move we make when logged onto Netflix and storing this data to gauge what we like to watch, what type of shows / movies we’re interested in, who our favourite actors and directors are. Every pause, quit, rewind, fast forward, this is all logged. The data goes as far as logging what type of movie we are more likely to be watching on a Saturday night than a Monday afternoon, what device we are more likely to be watching on, tablet rather than laptop or what people in a certain area like to watch on a certain day of the week and even tracks how many people start tuning out when the credits start to roll. This way, they can accurately recommend favourite shows based on our activity when we log in. It’s the perfect platform.

House of cards netflix

Netfix’s huge original hit show “House of Cards” starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright was the first test case for Big Data driven entertainment strategy. Netflix executives used their Big Data knowledge derived from their subscribers activity to determine that a remake of a popular BBC mini series, Kevin Spacey (our favourite actor) and David Fincher (who brought us Fight Club, Se7en and The Social Network) was such a no brainer, that they invested over $100 million into the series, with no pilot. And of course, the show is exceptional and has been a huge hit for Netflix, both in viewer numbers and in increased subscriptions.

“We know what people watch on Netflix and we’re able with a high degree of confidence to understand how big a likely audience is for a given show based on people’s viewing habits,” Netflix communications director Jonathan Friedland said. “We want to continue to have something for everybody. But as time goes on, we get better at selecting what that something for everybody is that gets high engagement.”

So what does this mean for the brand?
Their ‘Big Brother’ monitoring of our viewing habits mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m all for it. Netflix have created such a robust business model where they don’t have to spend any money on advertising or marketing their shows, unlike their big studio counterparts. Their recommended search engine within the site does all of this promotion for them. This way they can invest money that would have been spent on marketing into creating high quality original shows and movies, attracting the best in Hollywood and we only have to pay $10 a month. Netflix are tuning into their audience, listening to us, and giving us exactly what we want. Brand loyalty amongst subscribers is at an all time high and if they continue to produce the most sought after shows and movies, it’s only set to increase.

Gemma Tedford
Director of Brand Projects


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