The Last Frontier: Entertainment & Data

Image Courtesy of the Associated Press

The battle between data analytics and decision-making has always boiled down to an ethical one.  More precisely, data, information, and good analysis of the same helps to inform business leaders in their decisions, but can also be harmful as to the human element.  Where analytics are utilized in a complimentary fashion decisions can be made with less risk (or at least well-informed risk) with good information about potential outcomes. 

The entertainment industry, mainly because of its artistic nature, has somewhat fought against utilizing analytics and sharing analytics about consumer preferences and use.  The thought goes that where something created is subjective and pointedly artistic, data about what will and will not be successful with audiences should be challenged.  On the other hand, sports and other industries have utilized and equally challenged analytics as well. 

In baseball, several well-known free agents, particularly relief pitchers, were left unsigned until recently because the analytics and the collective bargaining agreement rules on draft picks encouraged teams not to sign those players before a certain date.  The players unions, much like the guilds in Hollywood, want to see their members working and getting paid.  The age-old battle between management and labor continues. 

However, the difference here is that both sides to the equation, talent and studio, franchise and player, have access to analytics and data.  A player can improve their swing or approach as much as a team can use the same data to sign or not sign a player.  A studio or streamer can look how certain content performs as well as how an actor does with audiences in certain genres.  Information helps with preparation and being prepared.  It allows decision-makers to make more well-informed decisions. 

Analytics should not be viewed in a vacuum, however.  If a player or actor, for example, gets along terrible with a certain manager or studio, or does not want to move or film in a certain city, or has character issues, those intangibles should be collected and measured as well.  People are not robots despite some making the argument that data turns them into such. 

Hulu’s dive into data and its public acknowledgement of such is key pivot in the entertainment industry.  Legendary Entertainment was once a pioneer, but has since backed off with a movie flop here and there.  Legendary did have some registered successes with data analytics and film-making as the Moneyball for moviemakingNetflix, known for being a leader in the streaming space and holding miles of data has more recently begun to share and utilize analytics and data with increasing competition

What is more, a leading actress (Kerry Washington) announced the move into data while discussing some of her upcoming projects for Hulu.  Disney’s near 100% ownership of Hulu also plays into what Disney can do to challenge the competition and enter the streaming space through data and analytics.  Washington is right, social media, consumer preferences, and data with analytical decision-making can help the entertainment production and distribution process.  Eventually, like in sports, entertainment studios, agencies, streamers, and talent will utilize data and analytics and separate themselves from the haves and have nots.  It is no coincidence that as the talent-content deals grow in dollar size, Netflix is utilizing its consumer-collected data to make such informed risk business decisions. 

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