大数据在手,没人比Netflix更了解观众

在电视行业,没有什么是铁板钉钉的事。就算你有一位金牌导演、一个叫座的明星,一个时下流行的创意,但很大程度上还是靠运气。

是这样吗?

在任何行业,预见未来的能力都是杀手锏,Netflix推出《纸牌屋》(House of Cards),或许就接近这种能力了。这部电视剧以一部很受欢迎的英国电视剧为基础,由大卫·芬奇(David Fincher)执导,凯文·斯佩西(Kevin Spacey)主演,Netflix表示,它已经成了美国及其他40多个国家播出频率最高的电视内容。其中让人觉得诡异的是什么呢?那就是,公司管理人员在还没人喊“开机”之前,就知道这部剧会火。

在全美和世界各地分别拥有2700万和3300万注册用户的Netflix进行了数据统计。该公司知道,其中相当一部分用户已经从头至尾观看了《社交网络》(The Social Network)导演芬奇的作品。由斯佩西主演的电影通常都很卖座,英国版的《纸牌屋》也很受欢迎。有了这三个兴趣人群,Netflix找到了一个维恩图解交集,表明买下这部电视剧,作为原创节目将可以稳操胜券。

现在,大赌注都通过大数据(Big Data)来获取信息,而且没人比Netflix更加了解观众。根据网络服务供应商Sandvine提供的数据,在任何一天的波峰时期,网络上三分之一的下载量都是在该网站上播放电影。据估算,去年通过网络观看电影的人数超过了通过实体DVD观看电影的人数。

电影电视制造商一直在使用数据,他们为焦点小组举行试映并记录结果。而作为一家传播内容,并且现在还制作内容的科技公司,Netflix对用户实时情绪的掌握令人惊叹。

它究竟掌握着多少数据?科技时讯博客网站GigaOm表示,Netflix每天会对3000万次“播放”(包括暂停、倒退和快进等动作)、Netflix注册用户的400万次评级、300万次搜索,以及一天中用户观看视频的时间和所使用的设备进行观测。

公司的首席通讯官乔纳森·弗里德兰(Jonathan Friedland)说,“因为我们与客户有直接关系,我们知道人们喜欢看什么,所以我们就能知道某个特定的节目将会带来多少收益。因此,我们有信心能为《纸牌屋》这样的电视剧找到观众群。”

此外,Netflix上的电影和电视节目还被贴上了数以百计的标签,即元数据描述符,它们都是受委托对演员、情节、基调、类型,以及其他很多很多方面进行描述的观众加上去的。过去,这些标签的作用是推荐网站上长长的内容清单中的其他节目,基本是根据个体用户的喜好建立节目清单。然而现在,Netflix开始制作原创内容,因为它能够先于观众知道他们想要什么。Netflix负责全球公司通讯的约里斯·埃弗斯(Joris Evers)说,“Netflix有3300万个不同版本。”

以上述信息为依据,Netflix买下了《纸牌屋》。它还在制作《发展受阻》(Arrested Development)的新剧集。4月,它将开始播出基于同名小说的恐怖题材电视剧《铁杉树丛》(Hemlock Grove)。

Netflix让它更加传统的竞争者大为错愕。因为Netflix没有参与收视率调查,所以不可能说《纸牌屋》是热播剧。但是,社交媒体上充斥着大量关于这个新节目和这种新模式的讨论。这部剧登上了《纽约时报》的《洛杉矶时报》的头版,还登上了《艾美奖》杂志的封面,这是它未来将获得许多奖项的好兆头。如果你的价格与Netflix一样低——包月费为7.99美元(约合50元人民币)——急剧增高的知名度能拉拢大批受众。

创造热播剧的神奇魔术曾经成就了不少人的事业,也断送了不少人的事业。但Netflix却显得举重若轻,至少,它用逻辑和计算取代了依赖传统和直觉的做法。

一名曾和亚马逊(Amazon)有过交流的有线电视高管说,亚马逊的Prime服务——一项新兴的原创内容服务——在决定节目播放的时候也将着重使用基于数据的分析方式。该名高管说,这种方式会出人意料地迅速改变产业的运作方式。由于是私人谈话,这名高管要求匿名发表言论。

“我认为,要说大数据从今往后会一直立于不败之地,这种说法有点过激,但很清楚的是,对用户数据有细致入微的了解将会大大影响电视产业的运作方式,”他说。

也有人没那么确定。FX Networks的总裁兼总经理约翰·兰德格拉夫 (John Landgraf)在为其频道寻找热门影视方面颇有成效。他说,数据分析绝不会预测到《黑道家族》(The Sopranos)、《南方公园》(South Park)、《广告狂人》(Mad Men)等剧集的成功,包括他曾看好的一些剧集,如《混乱之子》(Sons of Anarchy)。

“数据只能告诉你人们过去喜爱什么,而不能告诉你连人们自己都不知道的未来的喜好,”他说,“一个好的高级制片人的工作是,找到我们集体心理中还没有被现有电视节目填充的空白空间。”

数据分析的兴起让一些人开始担心,这会影响节目质量和节目多样性。安德鲁·伦纳德(Andrew Leonard)在Salon网站上讨论了“依赖大数据会如何将影视制作技术引向特定方向。如果导演携带大量信息来到剪辑室,称部分观众反对跳跃剪辑或对残忍的酷刑场面感到兴奋”,或只是对性乱场面感兴趣,那该怎么办?

Netflix坚持认为,实际的创作决定还将掌握在创作者手中。“我们不会太过干涉创作方面,”埃弗斯说,“我们雇佣合适的人,并给他们自由和预算去创造好的作品。”

但还是有潜在的冲突。考虑到Netflix的业务是推荐节目或电影,那么随着该公司逐渐深度介入原创节目,它的计算方法是否会更倾向于受它委托制作的节目呢?

Netflix了解我们的所有信息,这一点是Netflix的价值所在,同样也是人们的忧虑所在,因为如果Netflix不谨慎对待我们的数据和隐私,那么很多问题会出现。但很多人认为,这种交换是值得的。

“制片人盲无目标地朝着夜空开枪,希望能打中什么东西,而我为这些频道支付了150美元的费用,却看不到任何我想看的东西,”作家里克·斯莫兰(Rick Smolan)说。他的新书名为《大数据的人性面孔》(The Human Face of Big Data)。“这些人知道他们的目标是什么。”

Netflix所掌握的庞大数据,包括我的数据,并不是准确无误的。Netflix以为我会喜爱《白宫风云》(The West Wing),但我不喜欢这个剧;Netflix还以为我痴迷于出现的每一部古怪小成本独立电影,但并非如此。但在猜测《纸牌屋》是否可能会吸引我时——政治、媒体和导演芬奇都是关键因素——Netflix有很大把握。

该剧上线后不久,我就发现自己坐在黑屋子里,身边是空空的食品包装袋,连稿子都耽误了,心里还想着第二季什么时候开始。Netflix完全把我猜透了。

 

来源:纽时中文

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