How Big Data Changed the World: Netflix.
Updated: Apr 24
With data at your fingertips on the Internet, it makes perfect sense to put all the information possible in one place. But who else is using Big Data to change the world?
How many of us remember driving to the local video rental store to find something to watch, with a “Be Kind, Rewind” sign in the window? Big Data has taken that drive to the store and shortened it to the length of time it takes to open a laptop and type in a URL most of us know and love: Netflix.com.
In 1997, Netflix was founded as a pay-per-rental via mail company. Today, Netflix has evolved to include on-demand streaming of thousands of movies and television shows. What exactly does movie rentals and streaming have to do with Big Data? With around 167 million Netflix users, watching an average of 71 minutes of Netflix per day, Netflix revolutionized the media industry by collecting data from everyone on just about everything. Their data collection ranges from things you would expect, such as types of entertainment (comedy, documentary, drama, horror, etc.) and starring cast, to data you might not realize you’re even providing, such as when you pause the movie or stop watching and never resume. Based on the data you provide, Netflix recommends movies and TV shows for you to try next, something video stores could never do.
Besides recommended shows, Netflix leverages Big Data to keep you hooked; and not just on a TV show, but the program as a whole. Have you ever found yourself watching a new TV show and realizing you’ve been on Netflix for the past several hours? You can thank Big Data. Netflix analyzed when the most vulnerable time was for users to stop their TV show binge and do something else. Can you guess when users stopped watching? If you guessed at the end of an episode during the credits, you’re right! With this knowledge, Netflix made the TV marathon easier for users by immediately offering the ability to skip the credits and go straight to the next episode, fueling the addiction. Their goal is to continue increasing the average amount of time-per-day spent on Netflix, keeping customers happy and more importantly, paying Netflix for their streaming services.
If Netflix can put the pieces together and suggest what existing movie or TV show you might like next, and keep you watching the ones you do like, creating a show was the next logical use of that data. Using data collected from their 57 million users worldwide, Netflix realized three simple facts: Movies directed by David Fincher (such as “The Social Network”), movies featuring Kevin Spacey, and the British TV Show “House of Cards” were all, independently of each other, very popular among Netflix users. With this realization, thanks to Big Data, the choice to film an American version of “House of Cards,” directed by David Fincher, and featuring Kevin Spacey seemed like a match made in heaven… or Netflix. Everyone who worked at Netflix knew “House of Cards” would be an instant favorite, even before it was announced, because of the analyzed Big Data.
Why would you want to leave your house to buy a new movie or pay to see the latest flick at the local theater when you can stay home and find something more interesting on Netflix? Their use of Big Data almost guarantees they can find something you will enjoy for a monthly price that’s lower than the cost of popcorn and a drink at the movies! Where will they take Big Data next? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, we’ll all continue to reap the benefits!