How Long Before We See Targeted, Dynamic Movies on Netflix?

February 17, 2014

How long will it be before we start watching movies where the actual content, lines, product placement, or characters are catered specifically to the viewer? When the ability to talk with coworkers, friends, and family starts to get blurry because we all watched a different movie with the same name - and even though different, we all loved it. Where you know you'll sit down to a watch a movie you know you'll like- before you watch it. When movie categories all start to merge together. Sound far fetched? I think not.

Remember those books you read as a kid or laserdisks where you could pick what you wanted to happen next? Well, what if the author already knew what you were going to pick before you read the book or interacted with the video?


Netflix is already capitalizing on its ability to gather data about what its users like. It has been breaking ground for awhile now on changing how we watch television and movies and they are not letting up. Recently they have been talking about their efforts to train Neural Networks on GPU's- specifically on Amazon's cloud instead of building their own hardware infrastructure. They just released season 2 of House of Cards, a Netflix original that was created to cater directly to Netflix's audience as a whole.
The series, directed by David Fincher, starring Kevin Spacey and based on a popular British series, is already the most streamed piece of content in the United States and 40 other countries, according to Netflix. The spooky part about that? Executives at the company knew it would be a hit before anyone shouted "action."
Netflix, which has 27 million subscribers in the nation and 33 million worldwide, ran the numbers. It already knew that a healthy share had streamed the work of Mr. Fincher, the director of "The Social Network," from beginning to end. And films featuring Mr. Spacey had always done well, as had the British version of "House of Cards." With those three circles of interest, Netflix was able to find a Venn diagram intersection that suggested that buying the series would be a very good bet on original programming.

What they are doing is fantastic work and certainly cutting edge on the technology front. I think it's interesting every time I see very academic concepts like AI, things we debated over and studied in an academic setting, start to make its way into real world uses. It all comes down to Netflix trying to answer one question: what do you like?

But, I feel like I've seen this before.

Since advertising has been around, there's always been the idea of targeted ads. Getting the ads in front of people that are most likely to bite is common sense. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook use technology and data mining to an extreme advantage. They show ads they know a user will like or show ads in real time related to the content a user is viewing.

So, how long will it be before this technology roles over into the actual media we consume? Put on your tin foil hat and strap into your desk chair. I think it's only a matter of time before our idea of a movie morphs into an entertaining virtual reality we all love.

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