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Tech companies are about the data. For instance, when the techs discover that the photo of an A List celebrity gets less clicks while the ad spot without the photo gets more clicks; what is the answer? Well, the answer is simple, promote the ad spot without the celebrity photo. But that may hurt the celebrity feelings. In other words, technology can measure consumers desires and wants, and Hollywood is fighting against it. But will tech companies cave to Hollywood or will Hollywood cave to tech companies? The battle is raging.

For instance, Netflix Inc.’s executives were worried about ticking off Jane Fonda.

“After the streaming-video giant released the second season of the comedy “Grace and Frankie” in 2016, its product team put up an image to promote the show to U.S. subscribers that only included Ms. Fonda’s co-star, Lily Tomlin. Tests showed that more users clicked on the show when the photo didn’t include Ms. Fonda”.

The decision set off a high-pitched internal debate. The Los Angeles-based content team was concerned that Netflix risked alienating Ms. Fonda, and that the move could even violate her contract, while the tech group in the Los Gatos, Calif., headquarters argued the company shouldn’t ignore the data, according to people familiar with the discussions.”

In the end, Netflix chose to put images that included Ms. Fonda back in the mix”.

People in Hollywood aren’t numbers driven. What happens when numbers and provable tests are at odds with A-listers and image-conscious talent?

Some shows at risk of being canceled due to poor performance have gotten a reprieve because Netflix doesn’t want to damage relationships with key producers or actors, people familiar with Netflix’s deliberations say. Stars have inserted language in their contracts giving them approval over everything from the short video that plays when users hover over a photo to the trailers promoting Netflix shows and movies.

At times, the efforts to appease stars don’t sit well with the company’s technology and product teams, triggering heated discussions between the Hollywood and Silicon Valley arms of the company, the people say.

There’s a “natural tension” between the two sides, said Bob Heldt, an executive in Netflix’s engineering team who left last year. “People in L.A. don’t believe numbers as much as people in Silicon Valley.”

The tech side is “never going to get the reasons for wanting to do anything that is beyond pure metrics,” a former Netflix content executive said.

Tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google are all involved entertainment now. There has to been a balance of data and decision-making.

“It’s all very encouraging to hear that there is a debate,” said Tom Nunan, a veteran television and movie executive. “It reassures the Hollywood community that there is a beating heart in the chest of this great power. There is a limit as to what an algorithm can do in terms of predicting the future.” (WSJ)

Consequently, tech companies use a term called “moment of truth”.

“Some engineers fear that the sheer volume of programming is overwhelming customers. Their goal is to have customers click on a show in the first 10 seconds on Netflix—called “the moment of truth” inside the company. “If they decide not to watch something, that’s a moment we lost,” one engineer said.”

Last year, executives from the tech and content teams hotly debated whether to renew “GLOW,” a show about professional women wrestlers in the 1980s whose co-executive producer is Jenji Kohan, creator of “Orange Is The New Black,” a flagship Netflix show. The tech side argued the show should be canceled because of lackluster viewership, people familiar with the situation said. The Hollywood side felt it was worth continuing the show, given the importance of Ms. Kohan to Netflix and the critical acclaim GLOW had received.

“There were serious conversations from the tech side pressuring the Hollywood side not to renew it for a second season,” said one participant in a heated discussion over the show. GLOW ultimately survived. (WSJ)

Even Advertising caused a lot of dissension between the two camps.

“A constant tug of war between Netflix’s Hollywood and Silicon Valley arms has been the question of how to market a show. Some on the tech side felt it wasn’t worth spending heaps of money on marketing, including on billboards in Los Angeles, because the streaming service’s algorithm would surface the right content to the people who would want to watch it.

Hollywood executives, influenced in part by producers who felt their shows were getting lost in Netflix’s catalog, felt a marketing push was essential, people familiar with the discussions said.

“The product team would be saying, ‘If your show is good, don’t worry, the algorithm will find the right people for it,’” said one former executive who left the L.A. office last year. Over time, the product side learned that marketing certain shows made sense, the executive said. Now, Netflix ads on billboards in L.A. are ubiquitous.

Mr. Hunt and his product executives argued at one point that it was a waste of money for Netflix to pay for trailers to market original films, people familiar with the discussions said. They said the product team could edit movies themselves to create short clips that might attract more clicks.

Netflix has over time hired professionals from the trailer-making industry. Though when Adam Sandler made his first movie for Netflix in 2015, he was annoyed that the streaming service put up a trailer for “The Ridiculous 6” that he hadn’t approved and that didn’t have the guitar riffs he wanted in the background. After his production company complained, Netflix changed it to suit his tastes, people familiar with the matter said.

Promotional images have been a topic of debate

“Promotional images for shows have been a frequent topic of debate. “In some cases, the content team would tell us this particular actor really cares about only showing his face and not the whole cast on the image and it’s in the contract,” said Carlos Gomez-Uribe, a former vice president overseeing algorithms who left in 2016.

Feedback also went the other way, he said. When the product team discovered multiple images of a particular show helped people choose what to watch, the content team had to renegotiate many studio contracts. “You rarely completely agree,” Mr. Gomez-Uribe said, but ultimately the relationship was “incredibly productive.”

Tech staffers themselves concluded that data has limits as a guide. In the case of Ms. Fonda’s show, the product team discovered that a promotional image of a vibrator, part of a “Grace and Frankie” plotline, also did very well in testing to attract clicks, a person familiar with the matter said. But they decided that probably went a step too far.

Netflix executives say they proactively talk to big-name talent, including Seth Rogen, Shonda Rhimes and Hasan Minhaj, to walk them through how the algorithm works.”







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