At Netflix, big data can affect even the littlest things


The success of a show like Orange isn’t entirely because of data, of course — it still has to be well written and acted, and the show is based on a memoir rather than the result of an algorithm that creates TV concepts — but the data definitely helps Netflix figure out what viewers want to watch and how they want it presented. As more television is delivered digitally, the industry itself almost has to become more like the web, where visitor behavior is analyzed ad nauseum and data helps inform even seemingly trivial changes in page layout or user experience. Content is king, but every little thing matters when it’s coming at your users from every direction.

Gigaom

You weren’t alone. You fired up your Netflix (s nflx) device a couple Fridays ago, happened across Orange is the New Black in your Netflix recommendations, started watching the first episode and then wondered why you’d never heard of it. Netflix’s other original programming — House of Cards and Arrested Development — received huge preavailability marketing, and they weren’t even this good.

The answer to your question, like the answer to so many other questions these days, is data. Netflix didn’t have to spend millions of dollars advertising the new show hoping you would tune in — it knew you’d see it in the recommendations, it knew you’d give it a try and it knew you’d like it. According to the company during its earnings call on Monday, “Orange is the New Black” actually had more viewers watching more hours than during its first week than its predecessors had.

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