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Netflix: Using Audience Data to Achieve World Domination

In January, Netflix announced an aggressive 130-country expansion of its streaming service solidifying them as a key player in the TV revolution. In addition to their global expansion, Netflix is emerging as a content creation company with an ever-growing list of originally produced series and documentaries. Having roots in the US, how does Netflix repeat its local success on a global scale while remaining relevant to its subscribers?


Netflix isn’t a streaming service, they are a data company

Netflix has a wealth of knowledge about their subscriber’s viewing habits. According to Wired, Netflix uses data to tweak their recommendation engine, garner new insights about their subscribers and make strategic business decisions. They also use data to understand what content resonates with their audience, empowering them to make the best decisions when selecting the shows and movies they stream or create as a Netflix Original Production.

House of Cards was Netflix’s first original production and has been a success from the beginning, but this success wasn’t all by chance. At the time, Netflix was shopping for its first original series. House of Cards was one of the series looking for a home; Netflix pounced on the opportunity and offered the series an unprecedented two-season guarantee bypassing the traditional ‘Pilot’ guarantee. The reason behind this risky decision? Audience data.

Netflix’s user base provides the company with ample information about what their subscribers like. Instead of basing the decision on traditional television targeting methods, Netflix’s decision to go with House of Cards was based on their audience’s interests.

Netflix, which had about 30 million subscribers at the time (they now have roughly 75 million subscribers), knew that a large majority of their subscribers had streamed films that had been directed by David Fincher (Director of House of Cards) and films that starred Kevin Spacey. These insights empowered Netflix to make the bold decision to sign and commit to House of Cards as their first original series.

As the show cruises through its infancy and joins the ranks as an established series, it’s evident that Netflix’s data-backed decision was the right one. With 2016 being largely about global expansion for Netflix, how do they take their American political drama to the global stage?

Understanding your audience is the best way to create meaningful connections that drive emotion. While ‘House of Cards’ may be centered around US Politics, Netflix’s understanding of their audience has allowed them to find success with the show internationally.

We were curious to see where the leading original series picked up attention outside of the US. Using Affinio (Disclosure: BRaVe is an investor in Affinio), we compared the @HouseofCards Twitter audience from 2015 to 2016 to understand how their followers have changed. Briefly, Affinio is another way for Netflix to extract insights from its audience. Analyzing the connections that exist within a social audience, Affinio enables users to understand audience segments based on their interests. This allows us to understand the interest-based communities who can’t get enough of ‘House of Cards’.



As can be seen above, the communities that exist in Season 3 mostly translated to Season 4 as well, the exception being the growth and emergence of Latin American communities. To learn more information specifically around the release of Season 4, we ran an analysis to understand the interest-based communities who were discussing House of Cards in the 30 days leading up to the March 4, 2016 release.


Those who were excited enough to mention the show were largely an international audience, showing Netflix’s success in reaching a global audience. However, we couldn’t help but notice the dominance of Argentinian communities in this analysis.

Looking into this further, we discovered that this was tied to Argentina’s recent “12 Hour President”. Yes, it may seem ridiculous and something straight from the show itself, but because of a kerfuffle at the end of one presidency and before the next was sworn in, leader of the senate, Frederico Pinedo was a ‘fill in’ president.

Netflix jumped on the opportunity to get involved in the conversation around this political narrative dominating Argentinian headlines. The ‘House of Cards’ handle tweeted at Pinedo “Your presidency was the most perfect in the history of democracy. I hope to have your support the #4M.” Pinedo tweeted back “Thanks, Frank. We may have different political methodologies, but we’ll work together to promote peace and prosperity for our people.”



Using their strategy of extending the show’s leading character, Frank Underwood, into the real world allows Netflix to engage directly with their fans. Personalizing these interactions to different audience segments cuts through the noise and makes meaningful connections with their audience.

This international dominance of an American-based show is a testament to Netflix’s use of data to understand and reach a global audience. This knowledge of their audience through big data and analytics has positioned them as the clear leader of the pack trumping competitors through innovative and evolving uses of their own audience data. What will be their next move on their quest to create the perfect content for their global audience?