Big Data and “House of Cards”

By Deane Barker on February 17, 2013

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets: Netflix is tapping into metrics that TV will never be able to touch.  Some DVRs are getting close to this, but the future of television is not television at all, but data-driven, analytics-heavy programming where the program is constantly sending back data to the mothership about what you’re doing while you watch it.

Netflix might not know exactly why I personally hit the pause button — I was checking on my sick son, home from school with the flu — but if enough people pause or rewind or fast-forward at the same place during the same show, the data crunchers can start to make some inferences. Perhaps the action slowed down too much to hold viewer interest — bored now! — or maybe the plot became too convoluted. Or maybe that sex scene was just so hot it had to be watched again. If enough of us never end up restarting the show after taking a break, the inference could be even stronger: maybe the show just sucked.

Even the casting of the show was driven by data:

Netflix’s data indicated that the same subscribers who loved the original BBC production also gobbled down movies starring Kevin Spacey or directed by David Fincher. Therefore, concluded Netflix executives, a remake of the BBC drama with Spacey and Fincher attached was a no-brainer, to the point that the company committed $100 million for two 13-episode seasons.



  1. A disturbing thought for those of us without majority tastes. it would also seem to predict fewer possibilities for ‘sleeper’ or cult classics which are slow from the gate but grow a following over decades. All of which is fine for the producers but a bit of a loss for us as consumers of culture.

  2. A disturbing thought for those of us without majority tastes.

    It’s the American Idol problem, really. When you try to make everyone happy, you usually turn out generic crap that doesn’t really excite anyone.

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