How Netflix uses big data to keep you entertained

Are you a regular Netflix-watcher? With over 100 million subscribers, the company increasingly satisfies the entertainment needs around the globe. But what’s the secret to their success? How do they keep producing series that are adored by almost anyone?

Spoiler alert: it’s not only about creativity.

Much of their business strategy is based on data and technology. In fact, Netflix is dramatically transforming the industry. Discover how science and creativity work together at Netflix.

What are you watching on Netflix tonight?

What we love so much about Netflix is the full experience. No more “there’s nothing on TV tonight” or “I don’t know which show to watch”. Instead, you get a personal feed, with suggestions based on what you watched before.

Recommendation algorithm on Netflix

This experience is fully enabled by data analysis. As you can imagine, Netflix has access to user data of millions of customers. As a reference, here’s a list of things that are tracked per user:

  • Which shows you’ve watched
  • When you’ve watched (date, time, which day of the week)
  • On which moments you’ve pressed pause, play, stop,…
  • The ratings you give
  • The searches you perform

All of that rich information feeds their prediction algorithm. This algorithm helps them to serve their customers better in 2 ways:

  • Give personal recommendations for new shows to watch.  The algorithm processes which shows you watch frequently, which ones you didn’t continue watching, or gave a bad rating, and so on. In that way, the algorithm will get to know your taste in programs. So, if you watched show X and Y, but didn’t like show Z, you’ll get suggestions for films or series that are similar to X and Y, but not to Z.
  • Understand a broader “taste” to create new series and movies. It’s not only useful on a single-user perspective. By combining data on the behaviour of all users, they get an understanding of the “global taste” in entertainment. Ultimately, this helps them to create content that is interesting for a very large audience.

House of Cards - Netflix big data analysis

House of Cards: a guaranteed success

House of Cards is one of the most successful Netflix original series. You might even say that it made the company big. Before the start, Netflix committed to spend $100 million on 2 seasons. This was a big bet, but they seemed to be very sure of their case. How come?

Again, they relied on their data to make this decision. From Netflix usage data, they already knew the following:

  • Films featuring Kevin Spacey had always been popular on Netflix (although recent accusations have changed opinions regarding Spacey)
  • Users were positive about the British version of “House of Cards”
  • Films directed by David Fincher were well-received on the platform

And indeed, they were right. What’s more, House of Cards put Netflix on the map. Thanks to the insights they gathered from data, they made a huge breakthrough on the market.

Big data analytics

Netflix is a perfect example of how human creativity works together with technological progress. Data and insights set the right direction, while writers, directors and actors can focus on their job, with full creative freedom.

Data can help any business to improve their offering to customers, and to streamline processes. Whether you’re a big enterprise, like Netflix or Domino’s Pizza, or an SME, like our clients ForeyeT and Wara. Data can enrich businesses of any size, in any sector.


Get more out of your data!

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