By now. you’ve probably heard about Netflix’s recent success with their original content “Bird Box” and “Bandersnatch” (of the “Black Mirror” series). Both works are notable not only because of the amount of views and interest, but because of the data. Not only has Netflix mastered data collection, they’ve also been a data analytics giant in the industry.
The streaming service is usually secretive about its data, but following the success of “Bird Box” they let us know more than 45 million accounts tuned in to watched at least 70% of the film. There’s no clear indicator of how many people actually watched, but we can assume it’s an impressive number, even based on the sheer amount of memes we’re seeing.
But what are they doing with the data? We don’t have specific context to the data, but we know Netflix is using it to change the way we stream.
A marketing and data invasion?
We already know how internet data is collected and used by big companies. So what makes Netflix any different? A streaming platform had more views, so what? Netflix has found a way to collect more intimate data and create better algorithms, campaigns, and analytics. The numbers and engagement prove Netflix’s marketing tactics worked. Now, not only have they improved algorithms, they’ve been able to create social phenomena that works in their favor by creating more data.
“Bandersnatch” is the second craze Netflix released around the holidays with the same explosive success as “Bird Box” but with very different data. Designed to be a “choose your own adventure” type story, viewers are faced with choices ranging from breakfast to criminal activity. So what else does it do?
Netflix’s original talent was big data analysis for user recommendations so the creation of detailed audience information through interactive clicks isn’t out of character. Even the programmatic product placement opens up a new kind of revenue stream that Netflix’s new CFO Spencer Neumann (formerly of Activision) is looking to expand. And it’s all thanks to data.
But some are worried about the degree of data mining tech giants like Netflix employ. It’s not just about movie preferences anymore when Facebook shares private messages for Netflix and Spotify to read. There are even some who question the validity of Netflix’s numbers and criticize the lack of data transparency. Are we truly living in a dark and twisted episode of “Black Mirror” or is it just data greed?
Even fans are analyzing data
“Bandersnatch” and its layout means multiple outcomes and many hours spent exploring different endings. This interactive episode was so engaging that viewers have made flow charts to map all possible paths and outcomes. The irony being of course, the viewer isn’t actually making real decisions. You only have the “illusion of choice” while you’re supplying the platform with endless data. One thing’s for sure, Netflix is winning and they’re certain about their data.
Is this the future of media?
Data-mining is already a point of contention between companies and their consumers. Privacy is often sacrificed for profit and data is worth everything. We can’t predict how far data-mining will go or how it’ll change our lives, but data is changing is our lives and we can’t be oblivious to it.