How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood
To understand how people look for movies, Netflix created 76,897 micro-genres. The Atlantic takes an in-depth look at how Netflix reverse engineered Hollywood
Posted on 1/2/2014
Through a combination of elbow grease and spam-level repetition, we discovered that Netflix possesses not several hundred genres, or even several thousand, but 76,897 unique ways to describe types of movies.
...What emerged from the work is this conclusion: Netflix has meticulously analyzed and tagged every movie and TV show imaginable. They possess a stockpile of data about Hollywood entertainment that is absolutely unprecedented. The genres that I scraped and that we caricature above are just the surface manifestation of this deeper database.
...They capture dozens of different movie attributes. They even rate the moral status of characters. When these tags are combined with millions of users viewing habits, they become Netflix's competitive advantage. The company's main goal as a business is to gain and retain subscribers. And the genres that it displays to people are a key part of that strategy. "Members connect with these [genre] rows so well that we measure an increase in member retention by placing the most tailored rows higher on the page instead of lower,"the company revealed in a 2012 blog post. The better Netflix shows that it knows you, the likelier you are to stick around.
And now, they have a terrific advantage in their efforts to produce their own content: Netflix has created a database of American cinematic predilections. The data can't tell them how to make a TV show, but it can tell them what they should be making. When they create a show like House of Cards, they aren't guessing at what people want.
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