When IFC was seeking ideas for quirky comedic programming, the network knew where to look: iTunes data. Netflix and Amazon are using innovative data analysis to shape TV and video programming, too. Yet despite TV networks' experimentation with new data sets, algorithms aren't about to replace the human touch any time soon.
"WTF With Marc Maron" and Scott Aukerman's "Comedy Bang! Bang!" got their starts as podcasts that gained followings on Apple's iTunes. For IFC, that not only reflected a potential built-in audience for a TV show, but one that reflected the subcultural sensibilities the indie-film channel and purveyor of "slightly off" humor hoped to attract. So, the network transformed the podcasts into TV shows.
"There's a particular tastemaker who we serve ... and I credit them with much of the podcast trend," said Jen Caserta, president of IFC. "It's not as simple as it used to be, solely basing decisions on studies," she said. "You can collect data all around you now."
IFC recently began working with Netflix, which is the talk of the TV biz ever since it unveiled its data-influenced approach to developing its "House of Cards" series. In the future, Netflix data might help IFC determine "the difference between the way drama is consumed on its platform and the way comedy is consumed," said Ms. Caserta.
Netflix used internal data on what its users watch to devise "House of Cards," recognizing a good chunk of them like Kevin Spacey flicks, watch movies directed by David Fincher and viewed the British version of the show. Netflix competitor Amazon also has embarked on a similar data-driven show-development project based on its own copious consumer data.
Many channels remain reliant on traditional approaches, albeit with a modern touch. Consider A&E: The cable net surveyed around 750 people online who viewed the "Storage Wars" pilot.