Big Data Analytics and Netflix’s House of Cards

The start of a bad joke goes like this: What do Kevin Spacey, Politics, Netflix, and Big Data all have in common? Yeah well they actually do have a lot in common. They are more than anything extremely addictive. I haven’t met anyone yet (I know I am about to eat my words) that hasn’t either liked or even more often found themselves obsessively staying up until all hours of the night unable to sleep knowing there is another episode to watch. The show “House of Cards” was so successful that even arguably the busiest man in the United States, president Barrack Obama had something to say when it came to the show:

Now what does ‘Big Data’ have to do with all this? A ton actually. Overall, Netflix ended 2013 with over 44 million members ( 44 million members in which ‘Netflix stores 50+ different files for every viewable media asset, including 3 copies of every movie, more than ten years of user ratings, extensive user account info and metadata including complex licensing rights for everything. Audio files, log files, subtitles, etc.’ (OSCON)

How many of you would love to get your hands on that data set?

There was another story a couple years ago about how Netflix used Big Data Analytics to figure out how successful and potentially profitable House of Cards would be:

But Netflix isn’t going into this blind. According to Steve Swasey, Netflix’s VP of Corporate Communications, the company looked at vast amounts of subscriber viewing data before making the decision to license the show. And the company expects that, once the series is actually available for streaming toward the end of 2012, it will also take advantage of that data to help suggest the new show to its subscribers.

“We have a high degree of confidence in [House of Cards] based on the director, the producer and the stars,” Swasey told us in a phone interview. But it’s not just conventional wisdom that the cast and director will make the new show a hit, he said. “We can look at consumer data and see what the appeal is for the director, for the stars and for similar dramas.” Swasey noted that House of Cards also has a predecessor on British TV, a miniseries that is available on DVD through Netflix and is pretty popular with subscribers. All of that data just confirmed what might seem like an easy decision for Netflix to make. (gigaom)

Its an interesting story for sure however I think the bigger more compelling story is how will Netflix figure out new ways or more powerful ways to analyze the increasing amount of data they are getting each day. I consistently hear the argument that the size of data doesn’t matter as much as what you do with it. The idea isn’t to look at Big Data as a tall skyscraper that has more floors (think more viewers) but more like a huge warehouse that in usually 1-2 stories but covers a huge land mass (think in addition to the internal data that Netflix using but pairing it also with industry data, social media, competitor data, etc). This is where Big Data Analytics should thrive. What do you think?