The Parrot sketch

They believe in the magic of content, they can tell you when Germany hits ‘peak werewolf’, and they could be Nielsen’s biggest threat. This is the story of LA/Auckland-based predictive analytics rising star Parrot Analytics.

Parrot, co-founded by former Auckland University student and Chiasma alumnus Wared Seger, has trademarked the Demand Rating™, which can help TV executives understand demand for content in any market, at any time.

Parrot Analytics CEO and co-founder Wared Seger

Parrot Analytics CEO and co-founder Wared Seger

The rating system works by accumulating interest about a given show in a given market, expressed through any number of digital channels, such as online reviews, blogs, searches for YouTube content, social media chatter – even visits to the Wikipedia page of a fictional character.

A team of data scientists extracts meaning from the dizzying array of data points, and turns it into a single metric out of 100, to provide insights on demand for content around the world.

Seger says it is technology which virtually eliminates the guesswork and gambles which have characterised the commissioning of large and small-screen entertainment for a century.

“Television companies have always relied on statistics to tell them what succeeds and what fails. But statistics tell you what has happened in the past. Data science tells you what is happening now and what will happen in the future”

The reliance on past performance as an indicator of future success, explains Seger, is why movie companies produce so many sequels.

Iron Man did well, so they make Iron Man 4, 5 and 6 and so on until the genre really fatigues. Then they make something else.”

But Parrot’s clients don’t just use Demand Rating™ to avoid making an Iron Man 6. They can also provide insight into gaps in the market which even experienced marketers overlook.

Iron Man 6: not a box office smash.

Iron Man 6: not a box office smash.

One of Parrot’s clients at launch was BBC Worldwide, makers and owners for half a century of the Dr Who series, now a global phenomenon.

Executive vice-president of insight, David Boyle, recently told Variety magazine that “Parrot Analytics’ innovative and revolutionary technology provides the accurate demand metrics and analytical tools which will greatly aid the BBC to identify and understand content opportunities which resonate in various markets.”

Parrot proved the advantage of data science over conventional insights when working with BBC Worldwide on taking Dr Who to South Korea.

Boyle told The Economist Intelligence Unit traditional measures had indicated opportunities for the show in the region were “minimal”, but the analytics told a different story.

“We took the cast [of Doctor Who] to South Korea as part of a global publicity and fan tour,” Boyle recalls.

“The hall we booked had 4,000 seats available, but tens of thousands of people applied for tickets within a few minutes of them becoming available.”

The traditional audience measurement tools had not indicated this market potential because they were not designed to look at the relevant data. But now the model is in a state of transformation, thanks largely to analytics-driven insights.

“We’re doing the same analysis now for many of our other brands and we’re seeing new opportunities everywhere,” says Boyle. “We’re very excited about the possibilities.”

Dr Who: surprisingly big in Korea

Dr Who: surprisingly big in Korea

Parrot Analytics’s content demand insights go beyond individual series, to encompass genres and sub-genres, languages and regions.

“We can tell you if vampires are in demand in China, or if Germany is over werewolves.”

This is seriously disruptive technology, displacing the costly, and (thanks to cross-platform viewership) increasingly inaccurate conventional ratings methodologies, which extrapolate viewership from a small audience across whole regions.

The Demand Rating™ also lifts the veil on viewership information which was previously closely guarded by online streaming services such as Netflix.

The next step is going from real time to predictive analytics, to help a production company make decisions on what to commission for what market, knowing where trends are going.

This might sound like the death-knell of creative programming, as companies choose to cynically pursue a successful formula, shutting out riskier ventures. Seger, whose company website proclaims a belief in “the magic of content,” disagrees.

“The beauty of the scope of the data is we can see gaps in the market where demand is not being satisfied. There are people in a certain place who are not getting the content they want to see.”

This means that if that unmet need can be specified, a fringe show which might otherwise struggle to get past pilot stage could be launched in targeted markets with dramatically less risk of flopping.

“We can tell you if vampires are in demand in China, or if Germany is over werewolves.”

Replacing traditional market research with data science-based insights has potentially thousands of applications, from planning a risk-free world music tour to launching consumer goods in a new market, something not lost on Seger.

“We keep getting asked when we’re going to use our data science platform to predict voting in elections.”

Future political figures could well be hanging on the outcome of the latest Parrot Political Demand Rating, but not any time soon.

“We’re busy working with TV. It’s not something we’re looking at right now.”

Callaghan Innovation can help your business develop a great idea using data analytics. Go to our website  to find out how.

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About Callaghan Innovation

Business. Technology. Success.
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