Big Data: Coming to a Little Screen Near You

6 Min Read

Pop the popcorn and fire up your favorite movie and TV show streaming service. While this might sound like the start of an average evening after work, you’re not alone. No, I don’t mean we’re being visited from another dimension. I mean the service you’re using to stream your favorite show is monitoring what you’re doing.

What shows are you watching? When do you watch them? How do you watch them; on a mobile device, connected to home wifi, away from home? All of these questions are being answered every time you hit play, and the big players are saving this metadata in their own “Big Data” treasure chests.

House of Cards: Brought to You By Big Data

Netflix users streamed 29 billion hours’ worth of content in 2014. In 2015, that figure grew to 42.5 billion. These figures, reported on by Time, represent a 47% year-over-year increase in usage patterns. Every time Netflix’s service was accessed, insights were gleaned from the actions of their users. These insights empowered Netflix to create one of the most popular television series of all time: House of Cards.

The New York Times ran a piece that discussed how big data had informed Netflix’s decision to purchase House of Cards. Because they had an insane amount of user data, they knew that “Social Network” had been streamed by the majority of their users. They also knew that in Britain, the counterpart to House of Cards had performed extremely well. And you’d be hard pressed to find a Kevin Spacey film that didn’t get a ton of attention from their subscribers. So what happens when you put all three of those data points together? You end up with a very good bet.

House of Cards, when pitched to Netflix and other Premium networks, was interesting. But Netflix had data telling them that the pilot would prove to be the cornerstone of a killer new series. What’s more, Netflix could use their ever-growing Big Data trove to inform the creative direction of the content being produced.

Big Data Impacting Education Initiatives

Entertainment isn’t the only industry benefiting from the rise of Big Data. “Learning Analytics” and “Educational Data Mining” are two new educational disciplines that focus on empowering students to learn in a more tailored approach. What if the information provided to students included feedback in real-time to instructors, helping target students that are struggling before the student failed a test or assessment?

Some online test prep sites for students already do this by providing custom-fit solutions for students getting ready to tackle standardized testing and assessments. However Big Data trends indicate that the individualized tools students are already accessing to improve performance are about to become a lot smarter.

Big Data Could Be the Answer for Improving Student Retention

According to Education Dive, roughly 50 percent of students in the US entering into post-secondary education fail to complete the program within 6 years. This a tragic statistic for a country where students spend an average of $16,668.75 per year to attend college. When students fail to graduate, they’ve sometimes invested tens of thousands of dollars into something that will never yield a financial return-on-investment.

The good news is Big Data could be instrumental in helping colleges and universities retain students. Understanding student behavior and identifying high-risk students can help schools better target their limited resources.

Cost-Effective Big Data Utilization

What’s amazing is that Big Data is already all around us. The challenge is deploying a stronger, more inclusive net to capture everything that an organization comes into contact with over the course of their daily operations. Then the data that is harvested needs to be effectively searched, categorized, and analyzed in order to yield meaningful actions that can be taken to improve organizational effectiveness.

The good news is the single largest cost associated with harvesting Big Data is the cost to store all the information that’s collected. For an education institution, the data available will range into the petabytes. Even SME’s will still need terabytes of storage space, at a minimum. Fortunately, technology is rapidly improving both in terms of data compression and the cost per gigabyte of storage.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

There are also companies entering the market that are offering to help outsource the management and analysis of organizational Big Data. Typically, these companies are software vendors that are willing to provide the manpower to actually utilize the software they sell; hence the category’s name: “Software as a Service (SaaS)”. Investigating less expensive alternatives through competitive bidding is one of the best ways for education startups and innovators to manage Big Data on a smaller budget.

One thing is absolutely clear. For companies of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the entertainment industry to education, Big Data is becoming a bigger and bigger opportunity. The only question to ask yourself is: Will my company aggressively harness the power that it brings to outperform the competition and improve key outcomes?

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