Nearly five years ago, a show that followed the lives of inmates in a women’s prison shook up television. Orange Is the New Black became an unexpected hit, helping to put Netflix on the map as a creator of innovative original entertainment. The show pushed boundaries with its dark humor and diverse cast, becoming Netflix’s most-watched original series. Uzo Aduba has won two Emmys for her nuanced, empathetic portrayal of a black lesbian woman struggling with mental illness, a character rarely seen on mainstream television.
Orange Is the New Black isn’t just great television — it’s also an example of data-driven creativity in action.1 With the recent explosion of shows produced by Silicon Valley companies like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix comes a fear that entertainment will increasingly be shaped by analysts crunching numbers rather than creatives following their artistic vision. Five years in, Netflix’s foray into original content demonstrates that what’s happened is actually the opposite: Data-driven platforms are giving high-quality, innovative entertainment a place to shine. Why? Because they can connect content and audiences in ways that broadcasters never could…
- Many of the arguments made in this article reflect ideas explored in greater depth the authors recent book, Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment (MIT Press, 2016).