“But Hollywood is not just any industry. It’s the true north of our culture. To become a broker here! Think of the power! Think of the parties! And this is why so many are called. Everyone would like to be a player and Hollywood is littered with the wreckage of careers of people who looked at the entertainment industry and thought, “I would love to be a big shot and, anyhow, how hard can it be?” It turns out that making entertainment is extremely hard. Even Disney can make a stinker like John Carter. Even very talented people (the Weinstein brothers or Bonnie Hammer, for instance) make mistakes.
So does Netflix have an edge? Is there any reason to think they can flourish where so many have failed? The apparent answer is data. Netflix has lots and lots of data. They know what we watch, when we watch, where we stop watching, where we repeat a scene, where we reach for the fast-forward button, and most critically, when we break off and move on. They know which movies sell well at 8:00 on a Friday night and which ones we like to watch on Sunday afternoon. They can surmise which directors, writers, and stars produce the most watchable entertainment. They have magnificent data.
And that’s a tragedy. Netflix has so much data that they are going to be tempted to climb into the creative tent and start offering “advice.” I mean, what is all that data (and power) for, if it doesn’t let you call some shots? They can claim to know exactly what works and what does not. Well, sorry, no. Knowing that something works leaves us a long way from knowing why something works. And this leaves us a long way from knowing how to reproduce it in another movie. The only thing this data can be absolutely sure to produce is arrogance. We have seen this mistake before.”