Has Netflix Developed the Alchemy for Success?

The fact that Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) claims to have predicted the success of its first piece of originally-produced content — the television drama “House of Cards” — has prompted those in the business and several commentators to wonder whether creativity has been subjected to the trends manifested by big data. Yet, despite the criticism, Netflix has used its vast stockpile of internal consumer data to tailor its promotions and new content to their preferences, and it is clear that a new paradigm is taking shape.

There may be not such thing as a guaranteed success in television — even with a popular cast and a solid concept, shows can flop — but that does not prevent content developers from trying to find a metric to predict future hits.

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Netflix did not stumble upon the combination of director David Fincher, leading actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and the idea to remake the British version of “House of Cards” randomly. The Internet-video provider looked at the massive amount of data provided by its 27 million United States subscribers, and ran the numbers. From its examination, Netflix knew that many users had streamed Fincher’s works —  among his best-known films are Fight Club and The Social Network — from beginning to end. Netflix also discovered that movies starring Spacey are popular, and that many viewers have rated the British version of “House of Cards” highly.

From this data, Netflix was able to form three circles of interest into a Venn diagram, and the intersecting point of those three circles indicated that creating the series would be a good bet on original programming…