Big Data in Cable: How Analytics Is Shaping Television Viewing Habits

Cable and media companies are harnessing the power of big data to get a better sense of the audience's viewing habits.

"Star Trek" is one of the most popular television series of all time, spurring several reboots, feature films and a cult following that rivals that of any other show. However, just imagine a world in which the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew never unfolded on the small screen.

In 1968, this was almost a reality for "Star Trek," but its legions of dedicated and enthusiastic fans launched a letter campaign as well as several protests to save the series from cancelation. In the past, this was the way things were done — in fact, several shows have been saved from an early end in this same fashion.

Today, however, much has changed. As viewers increasingly utilize a range of platforms that enable the collection of big data, cable executives are more in-tune to their preferences. Media companies are now leveraging intelligent insights gleaned from big data to get a better sense of their audience, enabling them to craft their programming accordingly. Let's take a look at just a few of the ways big data analytics is helping shape today's television lineup:

Netflix predicts the success of 'House of Cards'

"This was a tipping point for the industry, showing the power that big data can bring to the table."

Multichannel News contributor Jimmy Schaeffler noted that Netflix had such confidence in the "House of Cards" series that it invested $100 million up front to support the show. This was a tipping point for the industry, showing the power that big data can bring to the table. Through its analytics research, Netflix was able to discern that HOC would be well-received, and judging by the show's 5 million viewers, the company was right to trust their big data insights. "Netflix was the only network that said 'We believe in you...we've run our data, and it tells us that the audience would watch this series,'" actor Kevin Spacey said, according to Schaeffler. Currently, the show is slated to include 12 seasons overall, running through 2023.

AMC ensures perfect timing for ads and promos

However, it isn't just the shows themselves that are being impacted by the use of big data. The advertisements aired during prime-time programming are also being scheduled according to analytics insights.

After gathering big data pertaining to its audience's viewing habits and preferences using information from comScore, Nielsen, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, AMC Networks was able to learn more about its viewers. These insights allowed the network to pinpoint the best times to air ads, ensuring that the audience was engaged despite the crowded marketplace. "We need to know who's watching and why," noted Vitaly Tsivin, AMC Networks Business Intelligence's senior vice president. "[A]nd we need to know it quickly so that we can decide whether to run an ad or a promo in a particular slot during tomorrow night's episode of 'Mad Men.'"

Time Warner Cable personalizes ad campaigns

Data analytics also enables media and cable organizations to create customized ad campaigns that will appeal to a specific group of viewers. This is the approach Time Warner Cable takes to connect with its nearly 8 million subscribed customers, noted DataFloq founder Mark van Rijmenam.

Using public data sets like real estate records, voter registration, demographics and local viewing habits, Time Warner is able to establish comprehensive, thorough profiles on its customers. With this information, the company can create more personalized ad campaigns that extend not only to its cable television service, but its mobile apps and social media channels as well. After the initial pilot campaign was created and viewed by customers, Time Warner continued its big data endeavor, analyzing subsequent information to tweak and adjust the ads as necessary to ensure success.

Vast data requires meaningful insights

These examples show the opportunities big data can bring for cable and media companies. However, one of the main challenges on the road to gleaning these types of insights has to do with the data itself — organizations must be able to effectively store, access, analyze and utilize this information in a way that will best benefit their big data initiatives.

This is where expert help becomes so vital. Data Realty consists of experts in the big data field, specializing in the needs of the cable and media industries. To find out more about how a partnership with Data Realty can enhance your business, contact us today.