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How big data is shaping TV

An omni-present and truly disruptive trend of the last few years, and continuing into 2018, is Big Data. Gaining momentum in almost every industry, the importance of big data for TV is also undisputable. But before we dive into how big data is shaping the future of television, we need to frame what we mean by Big Data.

According to SAS, “big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analysed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.”

So, companies are collecting large amounts of data, and using it to make strategic business decisions. One of the first companies to harness this was Tesco with their Clubcard scheme launched in 1995 which was a staggering 23 years ago which gave them unparalleled insight into who their shoppers were and what they bought and when. This revolutionised their ability to cater for their customers and maximse their profits. Whether they held onto this competitive advantage is less clear. But what does this insight look like for the world of TV? Netflix first demonstrated the power of data when the American TV series House of Cards made its début on the 1st of February 2013. The Netflix production became an immediate hit, recording a 9 out of 10 rating and more than 275,000 reviews. Feedback then classic broadcasting did not and still doesn’t provide. The instant success and popularity was possible because the streaming platform collects and analyses all the data on its viewers. Broken down, Netflix recorded what genres its customers prefer, which actors and directors were most popular, and engineered the perfect show according to our tastes. The link above describes how in more detail, but in other words, data inspired creation.

So how does Netflix use analytics?

Currently the streaming platform has around 117 million customers. Having this many users allows the collection of a tremendous amount of data. The information that Netflix collects is as detailed as:

  • When you pause, rewind, or fast forward

  • What day you watch content (Netflix has found people watch TV shows during the week and movies during the weekend.)

  • The date you watch

  • What time you watch content

  • Where you watch (zip code)

  • What device you use to watch (Do you like to use your tablet for TV shows and your Roku for movies? Do people access the Just for Kids feature more on their iPads, etc.?)

  • When you leave content (and if you ever come back)

  • The ratings given (about 4 million per day)

  • Searches (about 3 million per day)

  • Browsing and scrolling behaviour

  • Netflix also looks at data within movies. They take various “screenshots” to look at “in the moment” characteristics. Netflix has confirmed they know when the credits start rolling, but there’s far more to it than just that. Some have figured these characteristics may be the volume, colours, and scenery that help Netflix find out what users like.

So, what can we learn from Netflix, and what what impact will this have on the future of TV?

  1. Comprehensive data collection is important:

Every minute watched on your platform, or of your show, is a minute that you have gained insight into what your customers truly think about your content. Every streamed video, every “like” shared across the internet, every clip uploaded to YouTube – these are all data points worth recording and analysing. Take this for example, Youtube and Netflix dominate 50% of the UK internet traffic during peak times. Each video is a mine of different data attributes that may uncover monetisable insights.

  1. Gathering richer behavioural insights:

Some organisations face analysis paralysis when faced with vast amounts of data. This is a result of not knowing what to do with this rich set of information. However, analysing the data in the right context often comes down to “who is watching and why?” It’s important for organisations to work out the stories behind their numbers and work out how numbers are linked or driving correlations. For example, YouView validates Facebook and Twitter’s influence, saying that 24% of 18- to 24-year-olds now get their TV recommendations from social media. Social media behaviour drives TV habits.

  1. Make data part of your culture

Data is not only science and numbers, it is a culture. Research shows that data driven companies yield higher performance over its traditional competitors by using data to inform decision-making. We believe that the Netflix example is more than enough to support this argument - coordinating open cultures working with the same data set leads to increased creativity. The television industry is ripe for data mining - it has the tools with which to drive deep analysis of behaviour, and the customer information to make it possible.

This drive for data also shows that TV is not dead, but more alive than ever. People are watching more shows than ever before, just in different ways and the UK industry is said to reach £72 billion by 2021 which is a huge jump compared to the 26.74 million viewers in 2017. However, Production companies need to open their eyes and see the playing field is no longer level when looking to anticipate viewer tastes.

However, it is important to note that if decisions are only dictated by the behaviour of the masses and therefore only based on what has already been consumed then there will be no more pure genius, trail blazing, eureka moments which TV creatives have and should strive for. Many TV creatives have made their name by doing exactly the opposite; thinking outside the box, creating something that did not exist and was not expected that then took the world by storm. This is exactly what Endemol did with Big Brother in 1997 and gave birth to the reality TV genre.

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