SOURCE: Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn Group

May 01, 2014 16:29 ET

Big Data Means Big Opportunity for Streaming Content Providers

Branding Expert Christopher Johnson Explains Why Data Drives Creativity for Digital-First Programming

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - May 01, 2014) - Whenever you click on your computer mouse, or press a button on your smart devices or switch channels on your digital TV, you leave behind a digital trail. Our actions create a large amount of data that can be collected and analyzed -- this practice is Big Data.

Netflix, which is the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming, does this on a grand scale. The company tracks the choices its customers make while streaming content such as when someone chooses to pause, forward, rewind and so on. Branding expert Christopher Johnson explains, "Each of these actions is called an 'event,' which simply stands for an action that can be logged, recorded and analyzed. Increased use of streaming, online software and similar services now gives companies real time feedback from their customers that was previously unavailable. It's a new day for sure."

A company like Netflix then draws conclusions based on this data. By tracking choices and behavior across a wide user group, the company has created original content based on viewer preferences and famously suggests viewing options. Executives from the video streaming giant have admitted that subscriber viewing preferences based on Big Data supported their decision to license a remake of the 90's popular BBC miniseries "House of Cards." 

Johnson says, "Netflix ingeniously has determined that subscribers who loved the original BBC series were also watching movies with similar story lines." Netflix also claims that more than 70 percent of its subscribers tend to watch what Netflix suggests. Johnson continues, "'House of Cards' is a game-changing approach to series development thanks to Big Data." This means that the company can accurately predict what content subscribers will choose to stream.

Johnson explains, "The stakes are clearly rising as more online businesses like Yahoo and Microsoft are beginning to announce sweeping plans to produce original filmed content to drive online viewership. This is akin to the early days of TV, when companies like P&G produced original shows to sell their products which became known as Soap Operas."

This will certainly drive the use of Big Data to determine which TV show or movie the viewing public will prefer, can further enhance creativity. Johnson says, "It is still too early to know for certain how viewing audiences will respond as Digital-First programming becomes the norm, thanks to Microsoft's Xbox Originals TV division, Hulu, Yahoo and Amazon Studios -- who are competing with established producers of TV content such as HBO, Showtime and major networks. It is an exciting time and is driven increasingly by Big Data."

However, Johnson is optimistic about these practices saying, "At our core we are all storytellers, so creating powerful stories that viewers will enjoy ensures the widespread success for these online outlets. Producers and writers will still have the option to expand and test ideas, with the freedom to work within parameters described by Big Data."

Some analysts believe that if this goes on unchecked, we eventually come to experience increasing cases of 'mind obesity.' In other words, the broadest uses of Big Data may eventually deliver movies, TV shows and books that give brief moments of pleasure but strip away their capacity to engage our minds fully.

Johnson says, "Big Data is useful to networks, broadcasters, and service providers in creating personalized, profitable media experiences. However, sticking to a particular experience just because it is profitable may backfire in the end without allowing for variation and experimentation. After all, perennial favorites like Harry Potter were not delivered by an algorithm, but rather the fertile creative imagination of JK Rowling." This is clearly a point worth considering.

There is also the cost of data collection. Johnson explains, Marketers must reach consumers of course, and also must increasingly parse Big Data to determine campaign ROI. I have heard some concerns that this leaves less room for creativity. I don't agree. Creativity and originality flourishes in almost any environment and Big Data helps simply to focus the effort and resources required."

So how do we support creativity in the era of Big Data? Johnson answers, "To begin with, we can encourage experimentation, even within the themes and boundaries described by the data itself. This approach will both broaden and deepen relationships with audiences so that culture and commerce can thrive." This is important to consider, especially as new content producers are rapidly entering the arena. Johnson continues, "Another way to enhance creativity is to adopt new business models that use Big Data to drive innovation. Since we can neither do without big data or creativity, we can employ them both."

It is clear that Big Data is here to stay and will continue to yield exciting and profitable new business opportunities just waiting to be discovered -- one pause and click at a time.

About Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is CEO of Whitehorn Group. He is a highly regarded authority on branding and business innovation for companies such as, JetBlue Airways, Infiniti Motors. He attended Carnegie Mellon University where he won the Tholenheimer Award and McCurdy Prize. He can be reached at (212) 537-9129,, or on Twitter @Chris4Whitehorn.

About Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn is a premier brand strategy firm. They create what's NEW and NEXT through global branding, design, product innovation, political and celebrity brands, business strategy, global marketing and distribution.

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