Applying audience analytics for a smarter Hollywood

Now that everybody is virtually shouting their likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and desires over the Internet, can and will Hollywood listen to the audiences directly?

Commentary - Hollywood is operated by smart, talented people who have spent the time and research to truly understand what their audience craves. However, now that everybody is virtually shouting their likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and desires over the Internet, can and will Hollywood listen to the audiences directly?

With the age of captive networks and captive viewers nearly gone, media and entertainment leaders are striving to control their destinies and revenue streams by moving closer to their customers. According to recent IBM research that surveyed over 60 media and entertainment CEOs, 80% identify “Getting closer to the customer” as their top priority[i]. In our new age of the “Connected Customer”, media companies have to move quickly towards generating better audience insights on the new channels and technologies customers are embracing.

The customer environment is becoming increasingly diverse, fragmented, and customer-controlled. As customers zip from device to device to consume their media, they are increasingly in charge of their content and the content environment. Putting more power in their hands is social media, where they levy and absorb their most candid opinions on the latest movie, article, or game to and from a lifetime of accrued contacts. Today’s largest social network, Facebook, has 845,000,000 active users (more than 10% of the global population), with 69 billion friendships among them[ii].

The curious and powerful asset that also comes with our technology-driven media market is data: volumes and varieties of audience data about their behaviors, media preferences, social interactions, opinions, usage patterns, and more. It’s now considered a truism that 80-85% of all data is unstructured[iii] in the forms of prose, messages, audio, video, etc., and 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, driven by growth in social, device sensors, and enterprise data[iv]. Today, audiences are revealing their opinions everywhere. The critical capability to listen and connect to audiences using this data, though, isn’t always easy to obtain.

Let’s be honest: media and entertainment companies don’t always embrace technology as much as they could or should. Blame it on a culture that relies on its creativity, passion and heartstrings to succeed. But the time is now to step up, embrace, and utilize the key technologies that will enable entertainment companies to capitalize on the rich data surrounding the connected customer.

Media companies have the opportunity to leverage all this newly available social and consumer data. The technology challenges to developing a solution are one of information management and analytics to derive insights from these multiple data sources, many of which (in the case of social media) are unstructured data. This data can be integrated with other data (e.g. historical sales, website traffic, etc.) to generate insights, which in turn can help media companies make decisions to "make, market, and monetize" in a smarter manner. These insights can then be applied to activities across the entire media value chain.

Analytics can help optimize the marketing phase of the media value chain, answering questions such as “how do I maximize the outcomes of my marketing spend?” Sophisticated tools and techniques can be used to model the optimal places, channels, and frequencies to advertise and promote new content. Social media becomes doubly powerful (and challenging) in this instance, as it becomes both a platform for harvesting data and a vehicle for outbound communications and promotions.

Just as these represent wild changes for marketing, customer analytics can also be used to transform sales and distribution (such as analyzing content libraries for valuable opportunities) and content acquisition and production (such as changing how data is used in the film festival market or in post-screening surveying).

The key technology enablers to capitalize on the opportunities include big data platforms, text/semantic analytics, high performance "analytics on database" data warehouse appliances, and predictive analytics. These are available to create highly configurable solutions to address these challenges. And much of this activity will likely work optimally in the “cloud”. In the end, though, it’s the people and skills that will bring the change, not just the tools.

People in the movie biz will still always rely on their best instincts, personal tastes, and knowledge of the market. This said, having data and a set of objective facts from real connected customers can be a powerful ally in building confidence in decisions, convincing others of your (brilliant) decisions, and speeding along better, more profitable ideas as they arise. In the future, the juniors will shop opinions and the heavies will shop opinions and facts. The best, in my opinion, will lead and speed ahead of the customer curve, leaving their competitors to eat their dust.

Check in next week for Part II.

Richard Maraschi is IBM’s Global Business Analytics Lead for the Media & Entertainment Industry where he helps some of the brightest media and entertainment brands solve their complex business challenges.

[i] IBM 2010 CEO Study

[ii] Facebook Data, Anatomy of Facebook, Backstrom, Lars, November 2011,

[iii] ^ Unstructured Data and the 80 Percent Rule, Clarabridge Bridgepoints, 2008 Q3.

[iv] Frank, Christopher, “Improving Decision Making in the World of Big Data”, Forbes, 03/24/2012