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Netflix’s Algorithm for Success? It’s Simple

Netflix’s Algorithm for Success? It’s Simple

Odds are, you or someone you love has it. Netflix have worked their way in almost every household, and are showing no signs of slowing down. As Netflix continues their quest in filling every household with its quality entertainment, we continue to get hit after hit in the form of Netflix’s own original material. But what are the odds that they’d have so many hit shows and new material constantly coming out, seemingly without any major flops? Well, it’s simpler than you might think, actually.

It all comes down to data. Whenever you view a show or movie, whenever you pause, rewind, or fast forward, Netflix is there…ever watching, ever observing. When you start a show to quickly realize that it’s not your cup of tea, Netflix knows when you stop watching. Netflix, first and foremost, started off as a movie viewing service, and still allows viewers to flip through the thousands of movie and television titles that they have in their database. So when it comes to developing their own material, where else should they look than right under their noses? The stats are right there, and they know it. Netflix’s communications director, Jonathan Friedland said, “We know what people watch on Netflix and we’re able with a high degree of confidence to understand how big a likely audience is for a given show based on people’s viewing habits.” They know at any given time what the top players and prospects are, and their creative game-plan at times could be compared to a Billy Bean, moneyball strategy. Take the best of the best, put them all together, and success will follow.


Think about it, if your goal is to seek out or develop a brand new show, wouldn’t you want to know just what people are interested in watching? In Netflix’s case, their analytics team really broke down the data into the most important categories: themes, direction, and cast. With their creation of House of Cards, Netflix used irrefutable evidence from their own subscribers to ensure that they created a successful product. “West Wing and Breaking Bad are trending? Ok, there’s the theme they should roll with. Twin Peaks and David Fincher movies are gaining significant attention? Boom, there’s your go-to choice for director. Are Kevin Spacey movies pacing well? Yes? OK, there’s our Frank Underwood.” They simply had the data right there in front of them, and all they had to do was plug and chug. OK, so maybe it isn’t that simple, but Netflix has proven that their data does not lie.


Black Mirror would be another example of this new strategy. X-Files and The Twilight Zone’s numbers on Netflix were through the roof, so the team quickly found a story that would capture the same theme and creep-factor as these classic titles. Mad Men was also a huge entity, so they sought out Jon Hamm for a role in the series. The recipe for success is to take what’s working, and create a metaphorical all-star team of a program. Using the greatest pieces of a puzzle, Netflix has hit after hit lined up in the pipeline.

When it came to formatting, Netflix noticed that most viewers were “binge watching” seasons in a short period of time. As opposed to releasing episodes as part of a weekly program, Netflix decided that they would give their viewers access to the complete season, all at once. What would normally be considered a risky move resulted in immediate success. Why? Because they had the numbers.


With Netflix’s coverage and content development growing exponentially, odds are we’ll eventually see a rare Netflix original flop. But as for now, these guys really know how to keep people coming back for more…because they know what you’re watching in the meantime. But will this data collection strategy continue to develop, or is it already at its peak? We can’t be certain, but with Netflix’s recent success and hopeful plans for the future, it seems like this strategy is here to stay. Here’s hoping that they’ll continue using this algorithm for success for the foreseeable future.

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