February 24, 2014
Is House of Cards Really a Hit?

If you live somewhere with easy access to Variety or an I-95 exit, it might be impossible to imagine finding somebody who hasn’t heard of (or hasn’t sat, bleary-eyed, ingesting the entirety of) House of Cards, the sleek and entertaining political drama on Netflix. According to YouGov’s Brand Index, a rough measurement of pop culture attention, the quantifiable buzz around Netflix reached an all-time high last weekend, when the second season premiered.
But how many people actually watched the show?
Netflix doesn’t share (and doesn’t care about) live audiences, and neither do its advertisers, because there aren’t any. So rather than rough Nielsen figures, we have to go by even rougher broadband analytics. But here’s our best guess: “Anywhere from 6-10% of subscribers watched at least one episode of House of Cards,” Procera Networks found, and in the U.S., ”the average number of episodes watched during the weekend was three.” Fascinatingly: There was no appreciable increase in Netflix’s overall traffic. 
Given that Netflix has just under 30 million domestic subscribers, that means that two to three million people watched House of Cards in its opening weekend. (A previous Procera estimate went as high as 16 percent of Netflix subs, or nearly 5 million.)
Two million, three million, five million people. Whatever the real number is, that’s an impressive audience for a streaming network supposedly cultivating a long tail of entertainment. But is it an enormous audience for a supposed “hit” show? 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Is House of Cards Really a Hit?

If you live somewhere with easy access to Variety or an I-95 exit, it might be impossible to imagine finding somebody who hasn’t heard of (or hasn’t sat, bleary-eyed, ingesting the entirety of) House of Cards, the sleek and entertaining political drama on Netflix. According to YouGov’s Brand Index, a rough measurement of pop culture attention, the quantifiable buzz around Netflix reached an all-time high last weekend, when the second season premiered.

But how many people actually watched the show?

Netflix doesn’t share (and doesn’t care about) live audiences, and neither do its advertisers, because there aren’t any. So rather than rough Nielsen figures, we have to go by even rougher broadband analytics. But here’s our best guess: “Anywhere from 6-10% of subscribers watched at least one episode of House of Cards,” Procera Networks found, and in the U.S., ”the average number of episodes watched during the weekend was three.” Fascinatingly: There was no appreciable increase in Netflix’s overall traffic. 

Given that Netflix has just under 30 million domestic subscribers, that means that two to three million people watched House of Cards in its opening weekend. (A previous Procera estimate went as high as 16 percent of Netflix subs, or nearly 5 million.)

Two million, three million, five million people. Whatever the real number is, that’s an impressive audience for a streaming network supposedly cultivating a long tail of entertainment. But is it an enormous audience for a supposed “hit” show?

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

February 18, 2014
When, Exactly, Does Watching a Lot of Netflix Become a ‘Binge’?

On Friday, Netflix unleashed the entire second season of its political thriller House of Cards, encouraging fans to abandon any real-world weekend plans for some quality time with the morally bankrupt Frank and Claire Underwood. But when does a cozy night in with Washington’s favorite fictional power couple become a full-on “binge-watching” session?
The name for mainlining episode after episode has its roots in the 1990s with DVD sets and TV marathons, but the practice reached a new level of recognition in 2013 as Netflix and other video services experimented with original content (like Orange Is the New Black) and offered numerous catch-up opportunities for critics’ favorites (like Breaking Bad). Despite its increased prominence, though, there’s never really been a good, single working definition of what binge-watching actually is.
Previous attempts differ from each other in interesting ways when you read them closely. For 2013’s Word of the Year award—which ultimately went to “selfie”—the Oxford Dictionaries defined binge-watching as “watch[ing] multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.” Dictionary.com takes a much broader stance on what types of entertainment can be binge-watched, and it suggests that it happens without ever getting up: “To watch (multiple videos, episodes of a TV show, etc.) in one sitting or over a short period of time.” Trend stories about binge-watching rarely get into precise numbers, but their anecdotes offer some clues: In a 2011 Washington Post article about binge-watching on college campuses, one student reported watching 49 episodes of Lost in two weeks—3.4 episodes per day on average—while another student watched 120 episodes of How I Met Your Mother in four weeks: about 4.3 episodes each day.
Read more. [Image: Netflix]

When, Exactly, Does Watching a Lot of Netflix Become a ‘Binge’?

On Friday, Netflix unleashed the entire second season of its political thriller House of Cards, encouraging fans to abandon any real-world weekend plans for some quality time with the morally bankrupt Frank and Claire Underwood. But when does a cozy night in with Washington’s favorite fictional power couple become a full-on “binge-watching” session?

The name for mainlining episode after episode has its roots in the 1990s with DVD sets and TV marathons, but the practice reached a new level of recognition in 2013 as Netflix and other video services experimented with original content (like Orange Is the New Black) and offered numerous catch-up opportunities for critics’ favorites (like Breaking Bad). Despite its increased prominence, though, there’s never really been a good, single working definition of what binge-watching actually is.

Previous attempts differ from each other in interesting ways when you read them closely. For 2013’s Word of the Year award—which ultimately went to “selfie”—the Oxford Dictionaries defined binge-watching as “watch[ing] multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.” Dictionary.com takes a much broader stance on what types of entertainment can be binge-watched, and it suggests that it happens without ever getting up: “To watch (multiple videos, episodes of a TV show, etc.) in one sitting or over a short period of time.” Trend stories about binge-watching rarely get into precise numbers, but their anecdotes offer some clues: In a 2011 Washington Post article about binge-watching on college campuses, one student reported watching 49 episodes of Lost in two weeks—3.4 episodes per day on average—while another student watched 120 episodes of How I Met Your Mother in four weeks: about 4.3 episodes each day.

Read more. [Image: Netflix]

February 13, 2014
Is House of Cards TV?

Its creator doesn’t think so. A conversation with Beau Willimon about streaming, the creative process, and the meaninglessness of the word “television.”
Read more. [Image: Netflix]

Is House of Cards TV?

Its creator doesn’t think so. A conversation with Beau Willimon about streaming, the creative process, and the meaninglessness of the word “television.”

Read more. [Image: Netflix]

January 27, 2014
The Behavioral Psychology of Netflix’s Plan to Charge Higher Prices

Netflix is crushing it. But now, the company untying cable’s $60 billion stranglehold on American TV is apparently trying to accomplish something simple—something it hasn’t done in more than two years in the U.S.
It’s trying to raise prices.
Netflix costs $7.99 per month. Last year, it cost $7.99 per month. The year before that, it cost $7.99 per month. While cable and Internet costs has grown inexorably, the inflation-adjusted price of Netflix has actually fallen in the last three years. And its executive is starting to think three years is enough.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

The Behavioral Psychology of Netflix’s Plan to Charge Higher Prices

Netflix is crushing it. But now, the company untying cable’s $60 billion stranglehold on American TV is apparently trying to accomplish something simple—something it hasn’t done in more than two years in the U.S.

It’s trying to raise prices.

Netflix costs $7.99 per month. Last year, it cost $7.99 per month. The year before that, it cost $7.99 per month. While cable and Internet costs has grown inexorably, the inflation-adjusted price of Netflix has actually fallen in the last three years. And its executive is starting to think three years is enough.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

January 16, 2014
No, Netflix is Not Doomed by the Net Neutrality Decision

This week’s “net neutrality” ruling appeared to give Internet providers the right to punish companies like Netflix with extra fees for gobbling up all their bandwidth. Is Netflix doomed?
That’s the question many people are asking, but it’s really two separate questions. The first question is: Did this court decision kill net neutrality forever? The second, related, question is: If Internet providers like Verizon force Netflix to pay, is Netflix’s business model doomed?
Despite the company’s sharp stock hit just after this week’s decision broke, there’s good reason to think the answer to both questions is a hearty no.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

No, Netflix is Not Doomed by the Net Neutrality Decision

This week’s “net neutrality” ruling appeared to give Internet providers the right to punish companies like Netflix with extra fees for gobbling up all their bandwidth. Is Netflix doomed?

That’s the question many people are asking, but it’s really two separate questions. The first question is: Did this court decision kill net neutrality forever? The second, related, question is: If Internet providers like Verizon force Netflix to pay, is Netflix’s business model doomed?

Despite the company’s sharp stock hit just after this week’s decision broke, there’s good reason to think the answer to both questions is a hearty no.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

January 2, 2014
How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood

If you use Netflix, you’ve probably wondered about the specific genres that it suggests to you. Some of them just seem so specific that it’s absurd. Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries? Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life? Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s?
If Netflix can show such tiny slices of cinema to any given user, and they have 40 million users, how vast did their set of “personalized genres” need to be to describe the entire Hollywood universe?
This idle wonder turned to rabid fascination when I realized that I could capture each and every microgenre that Netflix’s algorithm has ever created. 
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.
There are so many that just loading, copying, and pasting all of them took the little script I wrote more than 20 hours. 
We’ve now spent several weeks understanding, analyzing, and reverse-engineering how Netflix’s vocabulary and grammar work. We’ve broken down its most popular descriptions, and counted its most popular actors and directors. 
To my (and Netflix’s) knowledge, no one outside the company has ever assembled this data before.
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.
Read more. [Image: @darth]

How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood

If you use Netflix, you’ve probably wondered about the specific genres that it suggests to you. Some of them just seem so specific that it’s absurd. Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries? Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life? Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s?

If Netflix can show such tiny slices of cinema to any given user, and they have 40 million users, how vast did their set of “personalized genres” need to be to describe the entire Hollywood universe?

This idle wonder turned to rabid fascination when I realized that I could capture each and every microgenre that Netflix’s algorithm has ever created. 

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.

There are so many that just loading, copying, and pasting all of them took the little script I wrote more than 20 hours. 

We’ve now spent several weeks understanding, analyzing, and reverse-engineering how Netflix’s vocabulary and grammar work. We’ve broken down its most popular descriptions, and counted its most popular actors and directors. 

To my (and Netflix’s) knowledge, no one outside the company has ever assembled this data before.

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.

Read more. [Image: @darth]

November 13, 2013
'The Worst 12-Month Stretch' In the History of Pay TV

"The pay TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever," analysts Craig Moffett andMichael Nathanson wrote in a report yesterday. Cable is in a free fall, led by Time Warner Cable’s horrendous quarter, in which it lost 306,000 homes while it blacked out CBS over carriage fees. 
Quartz’s Ritchie King, who absolutely has the best graphics on this phenomenon, charts the big picture. First, look right: Netflix is on a tear. Then left: The pay-TV business is clutching the 100-million-household bar like a baby sloth, as cable implodes but satellite and telco (e.g.: Verizon, AT&T) subs make up the difference.
Read more.

'The Worst 12-Month Stretch' In the History of Pay TV

"The pay TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever," analysts Craig Moffett andMichael Nathanson wrote in a report yesterday. Cable is in a free fall, led by Time Warner Cable’s horrendous quarter, in which it lost 306,000 homes while it blacked out CBS over carriage fees. 

Quartz’s Ritchie King, who absolutely has the best graphics on this phenomenon, charts the big picture. First, look right: Netflix is on a tear. Then left: The pay-TV business is clutching the 100-million-household bar like a baby sloth, as cable implodes but satellite and telco (e.g.: Verizon, AT&T) subs make up the difference.

Read more.

November 7, 2013
Marvel to Launch a Slew of Netflix Shows: This is Very, Very Exciting

Superheroes have ruled the box office for more than a decade; now, they’re looking to conquer new worlds. Marvel just announced four of its superheroes are getting shows on Netflix. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist each will star in 13-episode series, set in New York City. The four characters will then cross over into one another’s storylines, a la how The Avengers tied together Marvel’s solo films. The announcement at this point is short on details, but packs a lot of significance—almost all of it good.
Read more. [Image: Alex Maleev/Marvel]

Marvel to Launch a Slew of Netflix Shows: This is Very, Very Exciting

Superheroes have ruled the box office for more than a decade; now, they’re looking to conquer new worlds. Marvel just announced four of its superheroes are getting shows on Netflix. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist each will star in 13-episode series, set in New York City. The four characters will then cross over into one another’s storylines, a la how The Avengers tied together Marvel’s solo films. The announcement at this point is short on details, but packs a lot of significance—almost all of it good.

Read more. [Image: Alex Maleev/Marvel]

November 7, 2013
The Dawn of Unlimited Entertainment: How Blockbuster Changed Viewers

The mom-and-pop stores that preceded the now-dead rental chain had character–but made you bring the videos back the very next day.
Read more. [Image: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr]

The Dawn of Unlimited Entertainment: How Blockbuster Changed Viewers

The mom-and-pop stores that preceded the now-dead rental chain had character–but made you bring the videos back the very next day.

Read more. [Image: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr]

October 16, 2013
Netflix Was Supposed to Kill Cable, So Why Is It Begging to Join Cable?

Netflix is in serious talks with Comcast and other pay-TV providers to hop onto the cable bundle as a stand-alone channel. Add it to the list of tech companies—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel—who have internally debated trying to “disrupt” the cable TV business, but have wound up working with the cable companies (e.g.: Apple, Xbox) or simply built their own cable equivalent (Google Fiber TV). 
For those who already have cable, Netflix, and an Web TV box, this might change nothing. But it’s a potential landmark moment in the pay-TV wars, precisely because it shows that the battle between Internet and traditional TV isn’t as bloody as some analysts like to pretend—at least, not yet.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Netflix Was Supposed to Kill Cable, So Why Is It Begging to Join Cable?

Netflix is in serious talks with Comcast and other pay-TV providers to hop onto the cable bundle as a stand-alone channel. Add it to the list of tech companies—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel—who have internally debated trying to “disrupt” the cable TV business, but have wound up working with the cable companies (e.g.: Apple, Xbox) or simply built their own cable equivalent (Google Fiber TV). 

For those who already have cable, Netflix, and an Web TV box, this might change nothing. But it’s a potential landmark moment in the pay-TV wars, precisely because it shows that the battle between Internet and traditional TV isn’t as bloody as some analysts like to pretend—at least, not yet.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

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