HITS Fall Keynote to Tackle Big Data’s Role in Entertainment

The co-authors of a new book that looks at the importance of big data for entertainment companies dealing with an increasingly competitive landscape will both be on hand Oct. 18 in Los Angeles at the HITS Fall: Digipalooza Conference, the largest fall gathering of the Hollywood IT community and its technology partners.

Michael Smith, professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College, and Rahul Telang, assistant professor of information systems at the college — authors of “Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment” — will offer up their insights into how entertainment disruptors like Netflix and Amazon have used consumer data and analytics to upend an industry long controlled by major studios and TV networks.

Smith’s keynote presentation will serve as a call to arms for Hollywood’s established players when it comes to data analytics and competing in today’s digital, consumer-first world. Meanwhile, Telang will moderate a panel — “Data Analytics: Converting Elusive Science to Practical Business Applications” — that will take a deep dive into how enterprises can better organize within to take advantage of data analytics.

In a Sept. 19 Q&A with “Fortune” magazine, Smith talked at length about his book, and used Netflix and its marketing for “House of Cards” as a perfect example of what traditional entertainment players need to do with data.

“The thing that Netflix had that nobody else in the industry had was they didn’t just know that there were a bunch of [fans of the ‘House of Cards‘’ lead actor, Kevin Spacey] in the abstract, they knew exactly who those Kevin Spacey fans were and they could use the platform to target them directly,” Smith told the magazine. “So, Netflix went out and created nine separate trailers for ‘House of Cards’ and targeted them directly to those users. So, I think part of the story is the power of detailed customer data to help you do a better job of marketing the content.”

Smith and Telang’s book challenges Hollywood’s establishment to change the mindset they’ve long operated under by mining consumer information that only recently has become available, enabling smarter decisions regarding what viewers want, how they’ll watch it, and what they’ll pay for it. Detailed examples of smarter, data-driven decisions are covered in the book, with case studies on everyone from author J.K. Rowling to comedian Louis C.K. The book also takes a frank look at how companies like ABC and Hulu worked together to reduce piracy, and how shutting down sites like Megaupload.com had serious financial benefits for the studios.

Released in August, “Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment” is already garnering praise from Hollywood’s elite: “’Streaming, Sharing, Stealing’ examines the rise of data-driven marketing and the ability of artists to control content creation and distribution, which is completely disrupting entertainment industry norms. A must-read for any content creator,” David Bossert, producer and creative director of The Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement.

Taking place at Loews Hollywood Hotel, the HITS Fall: Digipalooza Conference is produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS) with sponsorship by Cast & Crew Entertainment Services, GrayMeta, Okta, Microsoft Azure, FilmTrack and Zaszou IT Consulting.

To register or for more information, click here.

** To read MESA’s Q&A with HITS keynote presenter Michael Smith, professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College, click here.