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How Netflix uses analytics to help develop hit TV shows

Netflix TV

More so than any other media entity today, Netflix is downright obsessed with original programming. Hardly a secret, the streaming giant has been rather forthright about its plans to make half of its streaming catalog consist of Netflix originals in just a few years time.

“We’ve been on a multiyear transition and evolution toward more of our own content,” Netflix CFO David Wells said back in 2016. At the time, Wells divulged that approximately one-third of Netflix’s library was comprised of original content, a figure which has likely risen considerably since then. Indeed, Netflix’s laser-like focus on developing and acquiring exclusive content is why the company plans on spending upwards of $8 billion on content in 2018 alone.

More recently, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said that the company plans to have 1,000 original titles on the service before 2019. That being the case, one can only wonder how Netflix decides what shows to develop and acquire, not to mention which Hollywood writers are worth striking deals with.

Touching on this very issue, Sarandos recently explained that Netflix’s treasure trove of internal data is what helped it land a blockbuster $300 million deal with Ryan Murphy, the mastermind behind shows like Glee and American Horror Story.

CNBC reports:

You might guess, from a bunch of other shows, who might like ‘American Horror Story.’ I bet you wouldn’t guess that people who like ‘Bob’s Burgers’ like ‘American Horror Story,'” Sarandos said. “And it’s that thread of humor that he threads through all his stuff that actually gives us the ability to broaden his audience beyond a single network.”

Netflix data, Google trends and social media all help in determining logistics and budgeting, while the creative direction is still based on “believing in the storyteller,” he said.

Interestingly enough, there’s a famous story which describes Netflix’s line of reasoning back when they decided to green-light House of Cards, a show which arguably put Netflix Originals on the map. As the story goes, Netflix observed that there was an interesting overlap between Kevin Spacey fans, viewers who enjoyed the original House of Cards on the BBC and movies directed David Fincher. Consequently, it was a no-brainer from Netflix’s perspective to pull the trigger on buying a House of Cards remake.

For those interested, a fascinating run-down of how Netflix employs analytics to map out user viewing habits can be seen here.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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