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Netflix: The Force Awakens

29 February 2016

From TechCrunch:

I’ve argued in the past that Netflix will have the last laugh — that its success with content production will soon rival and surpass traditional TV networks and movie studios. Now I’m more convinced than ever.

Ironically, it’s a smear campaign spearheaded by NBC to undermine Netflix that has reinforced my opinion. NBC research guru Alan Wurtzel recently leaked data that indicated one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, Jessica Jones, averages only 4.8 million viewers per episode. By comparison, the most-watched series on traditional TV channels, such as Fox’s Empire and CBS’s Big Bang Theory, reach 9 million and 8.3 million viewers, respectively.

The purpose of leaking this data, of course, is to poke holes in the Netflix business model. But, as this BGR article points out, NBC is “delusional about Netflix and the future of TV.” I couldn’t agree more.

Why? Because, on an apples-to-apples basis, Netflix is outperforming the traditional TV networks. As this Concurrent Media blog post makes clear, Wurtzel’s misleading data neglects to mention that Netflix currently reaches 42 million U.S. subscribers, compared to the 116 million U.S. households that NBC, Fox, CBS and ABC reach.

So what? So this means a show like Jessica Jones is attracting an impressive 11.4 percent of Netflix’s total subscriber base, while shows like Empire and Big Bang Theory command just 7.8 percent and 7.2 percent of their networks’ total audience, respectively.

. . . .

Here’s another reason why Hollywood should be worried: Netflix is now able to leverage big data to produce hit shows almost routinely. This is a feat the networks have never been able to pull off. “Netflix has created a database of American cinematic predilections,” explains an enlightening article in The Atlantic. “The data can’t tell them how to make a TV show but it can tell them what they should be making. When they create a show like House of Cards, they aren’t guessing at what people want.”

How is Netflix getting it so right? By meticulously gathering and analyzing data on customer preferences, including not just what people watch but what they search for, what they like and even where they pause, rewind and fast forward. What’s more, Netflix has broken down its content into nearly 80,000 specific genres and subgenres — everything from Emotional Independent Dramas for Hopeless Romantics to Witty Dysfunctional-Family TV Animated Comedies. Yes, those are real categories.

When Netflix people create a new show, they’re not guessing and hoping. They know if they make a show in a certain genre with a certain type of director and certain types of actors, they will likely have a hit on their hands. Call it Moneyball for the movie and TV business.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua, who says Amazon can do the same thing, for the tip.


11 Comments to “Netflix: The Force Awakens”

  1. How is Netflix getting it so right? By meticulously gathering and analyzing data on customer preferences…

    Sounds like a certain bookseller we all know.

    • C’mon now, Alan…
      CBS has a ton of new shows with brightly colored sets and actors spouting buzzwords. If they don’t succeed with brilliant planning like that, they could always try getting the DOJ involved.
      Oh yeah, I see what you’re saying…

      • @ Andrew

        LOL. Network Spaghetti-at-the-Wall Programming! Same ol’, same ol’.

        What was that definition of insanity again? 🙂

        • It really is weird. I was watching a commercial for upcoming CBS shows and I had to pay close attention to realise it was inappropriate for pre-teens. It looked and sounded like a show for eight year olds but it was clearly meant for adults.

          Disney Junior is actively trying to burn its brand as well. My six year old daughter just asked me why they always say ‘stay tuned for a very special Sophia the 1st when it’s just another re-run. She’d rather watch How the Universe Works because of the cool CGI and she trusts Morgan Freeman not to lead her astray.

          • Well, on the science, Morgan won’t lead her into dark alleys, true. (Not commenting on where he goes in other areas.)

            Note that ABC has dropped their false name of “ABC Family,” at least.

            • “Note that ABC has dropped their false name of “ABC Family,” at least.”

              A few years ago, when our children were small, we had to stop watching ABC Family completely because, in the midde of a daytime kid’s show, they would air a commercial for one of that night’s splurge of blood, guts, gore, and violence!

  2. I’ve watched a few Netflix made series and they are very good.

    I barely have time to watch regular tv now. But one of these days I’m going to have a Walking Dead marathon. When I finish my current WIP. And the one after that. And then I have a series planned…

    • If I may make a suggestion, use The Walking Dead as a reward. Get a certain page-count done per day; watch an episode. I say this because zombies aside, the show is an excellent learning tool for characterization and character arcs.

  3. Sounds like making programming according to what the market wants.

    Sort of like writing to market, no?

    • And the market for sexually explicit Noir superhero TV shows before JESSICA JONES was…?

      Writing to market is “me too”.
      JESSICA JONES identified a new market nobody was addressing rather than following in somebody else’s success. There are other successful superhero shows on TV but each is its own creature aiming at a different audience beyond traditional comic book readers.
      AGENT CARTER is a light period piece.
      GOTHAM crime drama.
      SUPERGIRL is family friendly adventure.
      FLASH is fun and frothy drama and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW SF capers.
      All try to stay within the standard practices of 8PM broadcast shiws.
      JESSICA JONES and DAREDEVIL and the rest of the Netflix Marvel superhero shows work in a very different tone from the CW and Disney produced shows and movies. If anything, they are closer to the darker material from Warner Bros and DC, like Watchmen, which truly earned its R-rating.
      Ant-man they aren’t.

      • I haven’t really watched any of these series, and I’m not the market for any of them. So as for your question as to what the market was for that type of show, I don’t know.

        But there obviously was a market for Marvel-type superhero stories (or I’m assuming Disney wouldn’t have paid through the nose for the properties) and these shows found ways to exploit that market in new and exciting ways.

        Or am I looking at it wrong?

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