How Netflix’s Algorithms and Tech Feed Its Success

Posted By: Pawan George Posted On: Jul 29, 2023
The proprietary technology that Netflix uses to gather and analyze data remains key to the company?s success.. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (AP)

After decades of pitching Netflix as a technology company that happened to distribute entertainment, executives there have lately attempted to restyle their streaming behemoth as an entertainment company that happens to rely on technology.

But don't be fooled: The proprietary technology that Netflix uses to gather and analyze data remains key to the company's success. That data is, in turn, used to inform decisions about what shows and movies to produce, whether to renew them, and whether to share them with any given viewer through the company's famous recommendation algorithms.

That's true whether the content is new and original—such as “The Queen's Gambit," “Squid Game" and “Money Heist"—or it's part of an existing franchise, like “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story," the “Gilmore Girls" revival or subsequent seasons of hits like “Stranger Things."

Netflix already shares some of this data privately, with those who make its content, and in the form of public weekly top-10 lists, says a Netflix spokeswoman. Depending on how the simultaneous strikes by Hollywood writers and actors go, the company, and its many imitators, may have to share more.

That's because, in the age of streaming, answering the question of how actors and writers should be compensated depends on this data, and how the company uses it to calculate whether a show was a good investment.

Data as bargaining chip in labor negotiations

When residuals come up in the context of a contract negotiation, such as the one at the heart of the current Hollywood strikes, what's really at stake is data, and who possesses it, says Michael Wayne, an assistant professor of media and creative industries at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

The Writers Guild of America and SAG-Aftra, the actors' union, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Wayne points to “House of Cards," Netflix's first big original series. Even 10 years after its debut, it still has value for the company, but how much isn't clear.

“As long as people who are making content for Netflix don't know the value of their labor, Netflix has an advantage at the negotiating table," says Wayne. “Data is central to this."

Netflix has in the past few years begun sharing more data with producers, according to a spokeswoman for the company, and a letter Netflix sent to a U.K. parliamentary committee in 2019. This data includes how many people started a series or movie in its first seven and 28 days on the service, and also how many completed it in that time.

Netflix also has a program allowing tens of thousands of its subscribers to give early feedback on some titles, in hopes that it will encourage those who create them to change them to fit viewers' tastes.

Hollywood talent might hope to change this situation. But the current reality is that, beyond these limited disclosures, Netflix has no incentive to be transparent about its proprietary internal data, says Marshini Chetty, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Chicago who has studied how the company gathers data.

Netflix?s data advantage

Netflix's ability to use data has helped it in the streaming game of retaining subscribers with original content, without breaking the bank. It added a healthy 5.9 million subscribers in the latest quarter and its profit rose, the company said this month. It credited a crackdown on password sharing—and also bragged that it had the top original streaming series in the U.S. for all but one of the first 25 weeks of 2023. By comparison, Disney and other rivals have been losing money on streaming.

A recent California law offers a peek into Netflix's data gathering and how it might be able to use that to its advantage with both streaming rivals and its talent negotiations.

The California Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect in 2020, requires companies to provide customers, on request, with the data it has about them. Doing so with Netflix reveals data with a surprising level of granularity, says Brennan Schaffner, a computer-science Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago.

That data includes “detailed accounts of every piece of content you've engaged with since you created your account," says Schaffner, including how long you watched, where you were when you watched, and what devices you used. Netflix also has unprecedented insight into what led you to watch something in the first place, in the form of detailed records of how you navigated the service's menus, and what you clicked on.

Netflix has explained that this data powers its recommendation algorithm. The company has also alluded to this data in past discussions about how it tests different versions of previews, thumbnails and other content.

How data shapes content

One window into how Netflix uses data is to look at how the company decides what to renew.

On average, a show on a traditional broadcast or cable network that gets renewed goes to six seasons, says Olivia Deane, a senior analyst at Ampere, an analytics company that gathers data on media and entertainment.

At Netflix, however, shows typically only get renewed for a total of three seasons. This has been true since at least 2020, she adds, even though you would expect that figure to go up over time, as the years roll on.

This suggests that titles that go beyond their third season have limited utility in terms of both attracting and retaining subscribers, says Deane. (To be sure, Netflix does have some long running series—“Big Mouth" has been renewed through season eight.)

Netflix's ongoing commitment to scripted shows—in the last quarter, scripted titles represented two-thirds of the shows Netflix decided to renew—suggests that the company has found that they return their investment in terms of attracting and retaining subscribers.

Given that scripted titles cost far more to produce than unscripted ones like reality shows and documentaries, this shows that Netflix's advantages in data—which the company has said give it more confidence that audiences will show up for the company's content—continue to pay off.

A prime example of Netflix's content strategy is “Stranger Things," says Deane of Ampere. First, it's the kind of pricey scripted programming that Netflix has considerable success betting on in the first place, owing to its data-driven insight into viewers' tastes. Then there's the fact that there have only been four seasons of the show. (Its creators have expressed a desire to create a fifth, but no release date has been set.)

Netflix has the ability to track individual subscribers, and when they churn—that is, cancel their subscriptions—and that data suggests to analysts at Ampere that a steady supply of splashy new shows can both attract and retain subscribers, but there are diminishing returns for continuing even beloved franchises.

Netflix's head of content, Bela Bajaria, said in a June address to the UCLA Entertainment Symposium that “algorithms don't decide what we make."

“There's not an algorithm that would probably say, you know what's a great idea? A period show about a woman playing chess," she added, referring to the award-winning series “The Queen's Gambit."

Algorithms also aren't creating content for YouTube, TikTok or Instagram—and yet all these platforms are in some sense ruled by their respective content-filtering algorithms. That entertainment platforms still rely on humans to watch trends and come up with original ideas is not surprising. Bajaria's comments don't address the way that data can shape decisions about which human-originated ideas to green-light—as outlined by Netflix's own engineers—nor about which shows and series to produce more of.

Tighter budgets, more machine learning

“Budgets are becoming tighter, and where you spend your money is becoming more and more important," says Deane. “I think that's why Netflix is now using data more than ever."

Netflix's budget for content stayed flat between last year and this one, at around $17 billion.

Netflix, a bellwether for the entire streaming industry, is hardly the only streaming company to operate in this way. Leaders at competing services have talked about how they use data to make decisions about what to produce. As more of these streaming services explore offering an ad-supported version, gathering this kind of data becomes mandatory, so they can provide advertisers with viewership information.

Now more than ever, series and films are expensive. This is all the more reason to have AI to inform the decision to commission them, as Netflix's own engineers explained in a 2020 blog post about how the company uses machine learning. That AI can be fed information about what titles are comparable to a proposed one, and what audience size to expect, and in which regions. Doing this requires the application of transfer learning, knowledge graphs, and a host of other techniques which are now standard in cutting-edge AI systems—such as Google's Bard and ChatGPT—but which are not exactly the usual fare of Hollywood studio pitch meetings.

The more data Netflix has to feed such an AI, the better the results it will issue. As we've seen with the enormous volumes of data fed into today's generative AIs, sheer scale can yield surprising and useful new capabilities.

Source: Live Mint
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Hollywood strike

Posted By: Aditya Gogoi Posted On: Sep 25, 2023
Hollywood strike: Screenwriters reach tentative deal (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Major film and television studios and striking writers have reportedly reached a tentative agreement to end the strike that has frozen production in much of Hollywood in recent months.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 11,500 Hollywood scribes said it has reached the deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the studios' bargaining group. The agreement, if approved by the guild members, will end a strike.

The strike between screenwriters and studios including Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc began on 2 May this year.

According to the Bloomberg news agency, the provisional three-year deal remains subject to the completion of contract language and recommendations from the union's council and board, which could come as soon as Tuesday. Members would vote after that.

Hollywood strike and the negotiation:

The writers went on strike for the first time since 2007 to fight for higher pay from streaming services, which have reshaped how TV is made and how talent gets paid. The Screen Actors Guild joined them in July over similar concerns.

The studios have reportedly agreed to staff a certain number of writers on their TV shows. Besides, the two sides have also created a structure in which writers will receive bonuses for popular shows on streaming services. An agreement has also been reached on the use of artificial intelligence, which writers feared could destroy jobs.

Production of hundreds of films and TV shows stopped as a result of the strikes, impacting not just writers and actors but directors, crew members, and industries like catering and real estate. With less money coming in, talent agencies fired workers and studios suspended deals with major producers to cut costs. Awards shows have been delayed and film festivals held without stars. The walkout has delayed the return of new shows for the fall TV season, and many films scheduled to debut this year were pushed into 2024.

The studios and writers didn't come close to a deal before the onset of the strike, and the studios and writers then didn't negotiate for months, during which thousands of guild members protested outside the studios' offices from New York to Los Angeles. While the economics of streaming remained the primary focus of the guilds, the threat of artificial intelligence also emerged as a growing concern.

The heads of the biggest media companies got more engaged with the dispute in late July and early August after the actors joined the strike. The studios offered a new proposal in August that addressed many, but not all, of the writers' concerns. The two sides negotiated for a couple of weeks before breaking off yet again.

The September negotiations came as a surprise. Studios feared the impact of months more without the ability to produce new programming, and many writers began to push their union's leadership to cut a deal so everyone could get back to work.

People who work in entertainment, be they writers or grips, were starting to leave Los Angeles due to the lack of progress.

When the latest talks began, four of the most powerful executives in entertainment — Netflix Chief Executive Officer Ted Sarandos, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. CEO David Zaslav, and NBCUniversal Chief Content Officer Donna Langley — joined their labor negotiators.

The studios and writers negotiated for several days. After months of public acrimony and finger-pointing, the two sides kept their public communications to a minimum as they hammered out a deal to get the industry back to work.

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Source: Live Mint
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Hollywood Writers Reach

Posted By: Vanshika Pathak Posted On: Sep 25, 2023

Striking writers whose industrial action has paralyzed Hollywood said Sunday they had reached an “exceptional” deal with studios that could see them go back to work.

The apparent breakthrough will raise hopes that striking actors can also reach terms with studios to end a months-long impasse that has seen film and TV production largely halted, costing the California economy billions of dollars.

“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 (minimum basic agreement), which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language,” said a letter the Writers Guild of America sent to members.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”

The letter, which AFP has seen, gave no details. It said language was being ironed out and that the final say on whether to accept what was on offer rested with the membership.

“To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing,” it said.

A terse joint statement from the WGA and the AMPTPT, the umbrella group representing studios and streamers confirmed an agreement.

Thousands of film and television scribes downed their pens in early May over demands including better pay for writers, greater rewards for creating hit shows, and protection from artificial intelligence.

They have manned picket lines for months outside offices including Netflix and Disney, and were joined by striking actors in mid-July, leaving normally busy Hollywood lots all but vacant, in an ebullient and united show of force.

Actors' union SAG-AFTRA congratulated the WGA, praising the “incredible strength, resiliency and solidarity on the picket lines.”

“While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP's tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members,” it said.

Negotiations between studios and writers had been moribund for weeks until a new sense of urgency appeared to have been injected into the process in the last few days, with the heads of Netflix, Disney, Universal and Warner Bros Discovery personally attending the talks.

Among their demands, writers say their salaries have not kept up with inflation, and that the rise of streaming has diminished the “residuals” they earn when a show they work on becomes a smash hit.

Studios had offered greater transparency in streaming audience numbers, while stopping short of offering to revise the way residual payments are calculated.

Writers have also demanded curbs on the use of AI, which they fear could be used to partially replace them in generating future films or show scripts, and therefore further undercut their pay.

The Financial Times reported Milken Institute research at the start of September that put the cost of the current Hollywood standstill at $5 billion.

At 146 days, the WGA strike is significantly longer than the writers' 2007-08 walkout — which lasted 100 days and cost the California economy $2.1 billion.

Even if the writers deal is finalized, the actors' strike would continue.

There have been no known contract talks between the studios and the actors' 160,000-strong SAG-AFTRA guild since that strike began.

But the two unions share many similar demands, and insiders say that a WGA deal could help to pave the way for a resolution to the actors' strike.

“We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand,” SAG-AFTRA said.

Source: News18
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OTT releases this week

Posted By: Ajay Rawat Posted On: Sep 23, 2023
OTT releases this week

Good news for over-the-top (OTT) fans as new set of movies and shows are hitting various OTT platforms this week. Lets look into what's new as we check OTT releases this week for movies and web series.

The Disney+ Hotstar horror web series features Venu Thottempudi, Bhadram, Ravi Varma, Chanakya, Gayathri, Avanthika Mishra, Aidit Gautam, Venkatesh Kakumanu and others in crucial roles. The story unfolds with lots of twists and turns and gets exciting.

Platform: Disney+ Hotstar

Release Date: September 19

Languages: Hindi, Telegu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali

Genre: Horror

This is Netflix romantic movie, an official English remake of German film -- SMS für Dich, starring Priyanka Chopra and Sam Heughan. The movie revolves around a woman who is struggling to cope with her fiancé's death.

Platform: Netflix

Release Date: September 20

Languages: English

Genre: Horror

ALSO READ: OTT releases this week: Movies, web series to watch over the weekend

The highly anticipated movie on OTT this year lands on Netflix, which makes Kareena Kapoor Khan's OTT debut. Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, the suspense thriller also features Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Verma in crucial roles. The movie is based on Keigo Higashino's Japanese Novel, The Devotion of Suspect X.

Platform: Netflix

Release Date: September 21

Languages: Hindi

Genre: Suspense thriller

The latest Disney+ Hotstar spine-tingling thriller features Kaitlyn Dever and a host of extraterrestrial beings who threaten her future while forcing her to deal with her past. Its written and directed by Brian Duffield.

Platform: Disney+ Hotstar

Release Date: September 22

Languages: English

Genre: Thriller

Fan of John Wick! Well this is an ultimate tribute to the cult movie series. However, this is an action packed series that looks reveals the violent origins of the iconic hotel-for-assassins in the John Wick universe. Directed by Charlotte Brandstorm and Albert Hughes, the series stars Colin Woodell, Ayomide Adegun and Mel Gibson.

Platform: Amazon Prime

Release Date: September 22

Languages: English

Genre: Action, Suspense

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Source: Live Mint
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Sophie Turner Enjoys Dinner With Joe Jonas

Posted By: Jogendra Kumar Posted On: Sep 20, 2023

Joe Jonas' exes Sophie Turner and Taylor Swift spent Tuesday night together. The Game of Thrones actress and the Shake It Off hitmaker have been romantically involved with Joe. While Taylor briefly dated Joe, Sophie was longtime engaged to him and was married to him for four years. He reportedly filed for a divorce from her earlier this month. While Joe and Sophie have kept their divorce a private affair, fans were stunned to see Sophie and Taylor together. In photos shared by the paparazzo and fans online, Sophie and Taylor were seen walking out of a restaurant arm-in-arm.

The photos revealed Sophie picked out a sexy outfit for her dinner date with Taylor. She was seen wearing a gray outfit that allowed her to show off skin. On the other hand, Taylor wore a red dress paired which she styled with brown boots and a denim jacket. It comes as no surprise that the photos have gone viral.

Fans on X, previously known as Twitter, couldn't stop themselves from screaming. “IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS CHAOTIC TIME WOW," a fan posted. “Is this for real??????" many asked. “All Hail the Royalty in this picture! The Queen of the North & The Queen of the Music Industry!" a comment read. “Sophie Turner and Taylor Swift had the opportunity to do the funniest thing ever and they did," added another.

See a few more reactions below:

Taylor and Joe dated a decade ago. Although their relationship ended in an awkward way, Taylor and Joe managed to mend things. A glimpse of that was seen when Taylor sent Sophie a gift after she and Joe welcomed their daughter Willa in 2020. It is no secret that Sophie is a big fan of Sophie.

Meanwhile, Joe and Sophie confirmed that they are headed for a divorce earlier this month. They issued a joint statement that read, “After four wonderful years of marriage, we have decided to amicably end our marriage. There are many speculative narratives as to why but, truly this is an united decision and we sincerely hope that everyone can respect our wishes for privacy for us and our children."

Source: News18
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Studios embrace cross-promotions to woo viewers

Posted By: Tarun Kumar Posted On: Sep 14, 2023
Ayushmann Khurrana?s Dream Girl 2 collaborated with Netflix?s Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, while lead actors from Disney+ Hotstar?s original productions like The Trial and The Night Manager engaged with each other to generate more buzz.

New Delhi: Film studios and web content creators are increasingly turning to cross-promotions as a cost-effective strategy to enhance audience engagement in a crowded content landscape.

For instance, Ayushmann Khurrana's Dream Girl 2 collaborated with Netflix's Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, while lead actors from Disney+ Hotstar's original productions like The Trial and The Night Manager engaged with each other to generate more buzz.

Brand experts said there are multiple benefits of such collaborations, including cost-sharing and enhancing brand image. “Bringing different fictional worlds together, like in crossovers, is a smart move. It helps the audience connect with content better. It attracts more viewers, creating excitement among the fans and help in promotion," Tanvi Bosmia, associate account director at SoCheers, a digital marketing agency, said.

This strategy benefits both creators of the content and the audience, she said. For example, Amazon Prime Video's strategy to get the characters from its shows Hush Hush, The Family Man, and Paatal Lok to come together for a video, which is particularly interesting given that all three shows featured cops, but with varying personalities. A senior streaming platform executive said OTT players are already staring at flat subscription growth this year due to a saturation in audience base in metros. To counter this, such platforms are initiating cost-cutting strategies by dropping episodes of non-premium, television-style shows and focusing on cost-effective marketing strategies, he added.

“As they observe viewership patterns stabilizing, services are trying out new things and don't see a reason to spend for the sake of it," he said.

“Sharing vibes with brand partners splits costs, broadens audience base and elevates the brand image. Picture collaborations with like-minded partners help conquer new markets and makes for timeless and contemporary productions," Mitesh Kothari, the co-founder and chief creative officer at marketing agency White Rivers Media explained.

This trend is also evident in Hollywood. After the success of Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part I, Tom Cruise, endorsed consecutive screening of Barbie and Oppenheimer both releasing in theatres the following week.

Bollywood is catching onto this trend as well, with characters from Karan Johar's Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani and Dream Girl 2 engaging in playful banter. “This might mark Bollywood's turning point, sparking excitement and boosting box office collections," he said.

It is clear that crossovers aren't limited to shows of a single OTT platform but can extend to series or movies by multiple production houses for different platforms, either theatrical or digital.

“The most important aspect here is the theme or genre of the show or movie which can be found across different platforms and there is no harm in tapping into a newer audience as well. More and more OTT platforms are now seeing the value additions that crossovers bring to their marketing strategies to help sustain momentum of their campaigns in the long run," Bosmia said.

Source: Live Mint
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Zack Snyder’s sci-fi epic Rebel Moon teaser released

Posted By: Ajay Rawat Posted On: Aug 23, 2023
Video grab of ?Rebel Moon? teaser. Credit: Netflix

Filmmaker Zack Snyder has released the teaser of sci-fi epic Rebel Moon’s first part titled “A Child of Fire".

According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, the movie stars Sofia Boutella as Kora, a mysterious woman who helps organize the peaceful residents of a planet to fight back against an authoritarian government.

Doona Bae, Ray Fisher, Staz Nair, Michiel Huisman, Charlie Hunnam, E Duffy and Djimon Hounsou have also starred in the “Rebel Moon".

The teaser was released as part of Gamescom Opening Night Live in Germany.

Source: Live Mint
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Man Attacked by Machete-Wielding Assailant in West Hollywood

Posted By: Ramesh Sharma Posted On: Aug 20, 2023

A machete-wielding suspect attacked a man in West Hollywood, California on Saturday, Fox News Digital reported.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that a 25-year-old man was attacked at approximately 1 pm (local time) at the intersection of Romaine Street and Highland Avenue.

LA police said that the victim was attacked with a machete and was injured with chest lacerations. Authorities confirmed that he was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

First responders said that police are on the scene investigating the incident and that the suspect fled the scene.

Source: News18
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Entertainment Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap recently gave a glowing review to Karan Johar's directorial comeback Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. After Anurag revealed he loved, cried and watched the film twice, many users took to the comment section of his post and criticised the film. Responding to them all, Anurag c
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World Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in the Netherlands on Sunday aiming to strengthen his country's air power, a day after a “heinous" Russian missile strike killed seven people and wounded 148 in Chernihiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in the Netherlands on Sunday aiming to strengthen his country's air power, a day after a “heinous" Russian missile strike killed seven people and wounded 148 in Chernihiv.
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Bussiness India's foreign exchange reserves jumped $708 million to $602.161 billion for the week ended August 11, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on Friday. This is the first increase in the kitty after declining for three consecutive weeks. In the previous reporting week, the overall reserves had declined $2.417 billion to $601.453 billion.
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World China has released a new documentary about the army's preparation to attack Taiwan and showcasing soldiers pledging to give up their lives if needed as Beijing continues to ramp up its rhetoric against the self-ruled island. China has released a new documentary about the army's preparation to attac
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Bussiness Gogoro In, a global technology leader in battery-swapping ecosystems that enable sustainable mobility solutions for cities, today announced a vehicle partnership with Swiggy, India’s leading on-demand convenience delivery platform. Gogoro In, a global technology leader in battery-swapping ecosystems that enable sustainable mobility solutions for cities, today announced a vehicle partnership with Swiggy, India’s leading on-demand convenience delivery platform.