I was poking around the other day for something new to watch on Netflix that I hadn’t seen before, and I came across a series from Norway I hadn’t heard of that looked to be a Vikings-era comedy that Netflix was recommending I check out. It’s called Norsemen and I thought it was reasonably funny, but it wasn’t clear until today how this show, which I certainly hadn’t previously been aware of, came to be among the list of recommended titles showing up for me.
Long story short: Norsemen showrunner Anders Tangen seems to have figured out a brilliant hack for getting Netflix’s recommendation algorithm to pick up his series. Here’s how he did it.
Explaining the process to The Hollywood Reporter, Anders said he knew the show would face an uphill climb to fight for consumer awareness in the US where Netflix shows almost 2,000 TV series here alone. And the service doesn’t generally put big marketing muscle behind series it acquires, like this one. “You can’t blame Netflix,” Anders said. “They have so many shows, they can’t market everything.”
But if you’re a showrunner, you certainly can.
Three weeks before Norsemen was due to launch its first season in 2017 in Netflix’s English-language territories, Anders took to Facebook and paid for sponsored posts that included short clips from the show and targeted a handful of major US markets like LA, New York, and Chicago. He and his partners paid $18,500 to run the posts, which they also targeted at users in three states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota) that have big Norwegian populations.
In less than a month, Anders’ efforts resulted in the following — generating 2 million video views via Facebook, racking up around 6,000 followers and reaching, in all, 5.5 million users on the social network. And then he got a call from Netflix.
“Three weeks after we launched, Netflix called me: ‘You need to come to LA, your show is exploding,'” he told THR.
Kick-starting his own buzz helped spur Netflix’s recommendation engine to spot it, pick it up, and do the rest. Once Norsemen started showing up as a recommended title, Anders spent another $15,000 to promote the series on Facebook around the world. Netflix eventually picked it up for a second season, with one change:
This time, it would be a “Netflix Original,” which includes benefits like a marketing push from the streamer. Season three, meanwhile, is coming next year.