Netflix commissioned House of Cards because people who watched the British version also watched Kevin Spacey movies

User data-driven commissioning may well be the future

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

You might have thought that Netflix's huge success with commissioning originals - House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and more - was down to very thorough appraisals of pilot pitches, but no, it seems they just look at user data.

The streaming service mines a vast amount of data on users, not only what they watch but how, when, where, when they get bored and pause or when they're so excited they have to rewind and play the scene again.

It's useful not only for making recommendations and getting people to stay on the site/app for longer, but it allows them to commission more efficiently, if a little prosaically.

In 2013, Salon claimed that Netflix explicitly told them that viewer data was behind the House of Cards remake. Apparently, people who loved the original 1990s BBC version also liked films starring Kevin Spacey and films directed by David Fincher, so what did they do? They made a new version starring Kevin Spacey with a pilot directed by David Fincher.

As it happened, the formula worked very well on this occasion, with the show turning out great and scooping a host of awards.

But it's a little worrying with regards to bringing new talent to the fore, and makes commissioning shows like picking raffle tickets from a tombola.

I like Ru Paul's Drag Race but also There Will Be Blood and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, so I look forward to a Paul Thomas Anderson-directed drag queen contest starring Danny de Vito.