Data — The “Special Sauce” Driving Netflix’s Hit Making TV


Data — The “Special Sauce” Driving Netflix’s Hit Making TV

May 29, 2020

Analytics helps industries of all kinds to gain insight into their customer’s wants and needs. Netflix does a particularly good job of mining customer data.  It uses analytics to wade through customer data and identify patterns. These patterns of customer behaviour help internal teams make decisions about TV series and has helped create several hit shows.  

Here are three specific examples that may inspire other teams to look at data in a new way.  

Example 1: 

Netflix wanted to create a series that paid homage to the 80’s.  They scraped social media content from around the world tagged as 80’s.  Using machine learning techniques the 132 most seen items were identified.  These items were used in the set design for Stranger Things.  A series that hooked viewers that were nostalgic to the 80’s. 

Example 2: 

Netflix identified that the British version of House of Cards was watched by many subscribers.  Those members who watched the British version of House of Cards also seemed to favor movies starring Kevin Spacey. This was one of the patterns that led to Kevin Spacey being cast in the lead role for the American version of House of Cards.

Example 3: 

Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, allowed audiences to choose what actions they would like characters to do at certain points throughout the episode. Every choice made by viewers was recorded by Netflix. This data was used by Netlflix to understand what their customers want to see and help create future content in shows.  


For Netflix the “special sauce” in hit TV show making is thel questions that they apply data to solving.  It may not provide the final answers but it is part of the data informed approach making hit TV shows.  Netflix applies data informed decision making to questions that other media companies don’t think of or can’t execute on.   

Companies don’t have to spend billions to scrape their data for customer insights but they need to get good at deciding the right questions to apply the data to.  That’s the secret sauce.  

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash


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