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How Data Analytics Is Shaping What You Watch

7/09/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


When Netflix decided to go into the entertainment-producing business by commissioning the streaming series “House of Cards,” there was a lot of data to be crunched before the first download ever took place, said Dave Hastings, Netflix’s director of product analytics, data science and engineering.

“You do not make a $100 million investment these days without an awful lot of analytics,” Hastings said at the recent Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative Conference in Philadelphia. While some may claim that Netflix over-analyzed “House of Cards,” Hastings is adamant that it was the way to go. “We have had a whole catalogue of things we did not make. We wanted early on to be careful, and it has worked out.”

Just four years after the March 2011 release of that first season of “House of Cards,” Hastings said Netflix has as many as 60 series seasons in the works or soon to arrive, from season two of comic book adaptation “Marvel’s Daredevil” to another “House of Cards” season to a new comedy talk show with Chelsea Handler. All of them will undergo thorough analytics before release.

“We live and breathe the customer,” said Hastings. “We want to be the world’s leader in Internet TV. When you have aspirations of being the largest, that means shaping demand. What is Internet TV and how does it differ from linear TV – the questions around that are what we use analytics for.”

In terms of corporate maneuvering, the speed at which Netflix has altered course in its business practices could give anyone along for the ride whiplash. Started in 1997 after CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings got irked about a $40 video store late-fee for the movie Apollo 13, it rapidly became the No. 1 DVD-by-mail rental service, shipping out its billionth DVD by 2007.

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