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How Data Convinced Netflix to Double Down on Adam Sandler

3 MINUTE READ | April 18, 2017

How Data Convinced Netflix to Double Down on Adam Sandler

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Katie Friedman

Katie Friedman has written this article. More details coming soon.

Back in 2014, Netflix signed Adam Sandler to a four movie deal worth $250 million. Even though only three of the four have been released so far, Netflix just offered him another four movies which puts his total contract at 8 movies for at least half a billion dollars.

How and why has a successful production company with original content like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Blac_k put intself into business with the guy who has made such trainwrecks as _The Cobbler? Why would Netflix risk so much money on movies that a New York Times critic once warned are so bad they “will make your children stupid”?

Data, of course.

Netflix analysts in 2014 knew that, while people may slam Adam Sandler movies to their friends and critics may pan them universally online, the data showed users spent more hours watching him than any other actor on the platform. In fact, according to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, users on their platform have logged over 500 million hours watching Adam Sandler movies.

Netflix Original movie “The Ridiculous 6”

The first movie relased on Netflix, The Ridiculous 6, currently has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – but it was viewed more in its first 30 days than any other film on Netflix.

Netflix Original movie “The Do-Over”

Of his second Netflix-released movie The Do-Over, mused:

Imagine a stand-up comedian who just piles on to one lame joke after another, repeating the punchline with a few words changed. The rhythm isn’t there. It feels desperate, almost as if the deal that Sandler worked out with Netflix required that he be paid by the minute.

Actually, he is. For every $1 that Netflix has spend on him so far, Adam Sandler has brought in one hour of watch time.

It is clear that Netflix stayed true to their KPI of ‘watch time’, even in the face of hilariously bad reviews of a movie where “there is absolutely no hint as to what the plot could be, but that hardly matters as we all know this isn’t a real movie but an elaborate shell game meant to camouflage the patented Adam Sandler Ponzi Scheme* in which Adam Sandler takes someone’s money to film himself on vacation with his friends.”

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In a world where it is easy to get caught up in aggregate reviews and feedback (think: Amazon and Yelp), brands can cut through the noise by focusing on what their data is telling them. Netflix prioritized customer behavior data over critical feedback and “…surpassed $2.5 billion in quarterly streaming revenue and added 5 million members” this quarter. So, “just when you thought Sandler couldn’t embarrass himself any further, he drops the laughless mess known as Sandy Wexler on Netflix subscribers,” it appears that they are truly getting the last laugh.