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How Big Data & Social Made House of Cards a Hit

Have you caught up on the newest season of House of Cards? No? Well what are you waiting for? Go watch it right now, it’s all on Netflix- and it’s great.

All caught up? Good.

For those who won’t bother watching- one of the most popular television shows out now, House of Cards, combines immediacy, amazing writing and actors, and big data to create a truly amazing television experience. Indeed, this perfect formula for a TV show is just that- a meticulous understanding of TV watching habits, data collection, and just the right amount of Kevin Spacey (a lot).

So how did this show become a breakout hit and bust down barriers as the first non-broadcast TV show to be nominated for an academy award? Read on…


Big Data Captured User Habit

One thing that Netflix does absurdly well is monitoring their audience. In fact, every time you play, pause, fast forward, and stop a show through Netflix it is recorded (from here on out we’ll call these actions ‘events’). From this, they become inundated with tons of event data (if data could be measured in tons, that is). This data is taken and processed to get the deepest understanding of user behavior possible.

The result? A near perfect customer profile.

One thing that was noticed quickly from these results was three aspects of House of Cards that made it an immediate success: the first was a love for David Fincher films, movies with Kevin Spacey, and the success of the British version of House of Cards. All of them had good track records on Netflix, with people watching these related films to the end without stopping. Naturally, making a show around these factors created a perfect marriage of the 3. When the idea arose, Netflix held no reservations making it.

house of cards camille main

The biggest revelation in consumer viewing habits is the fact that people watch dozens of episodes at a time. Television is consumed in big gulps, not short sips. As such, Netflix acquires and produces shows by seasons and releases them all at once. Playing off of this, House of Cards arrived for its second season with hours of new political drama for viewers to sink their teeth into. The debut resulted in thousands of user binging the entire season and immediately blowing up social media afterward.


The Social Push

The release of season two coincided with Valentines Day, which meant a lot of single people found a reason to stay indoors. Regardless of circumstance, the reception on social was huge. The first day it exploded on social networks, with over 350,000 tweets about the show. This beat out the also impressive metrics from season 1 a year prior.



If you haven’t seen at least a few Tweets, Facebook posts, or articles about the show- I suggest you stop living under a rock.

What does this mean for the future of television?

It’s still unclear, while some are still skeptical about the influences of big data on television production, the results (as of now) are undeniable. House of Cards is huge.

One concern from many other production companies is the idea of relying too much on the numbers. How accurate can these sorts of measurements be and how will this affect the type of shows to be produced in the future? Will true innovation be stifled in exchange for data-driven pop-culture mush? The jury is still out. What is certain is that Netflix has a run-away hit on their hands.

With big data at the helm, House of Cards has built a solid foundation for a new way to produce and market television.

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