Netflix Likes What It Sees in the Mirror

Netflixstruck another content deal late last week. Variety is confirming that the leading premium digital streaming platform will help bankroll a dozen new episodes of Black Mirror, the edgy British series that carved out a cult audience with six initial episodes through two seasons. The shows will then premiere internationally in all of Netflix's markets outside of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Black Mirror is a show that has elements of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, offering self-contained episodes that blend sci-fi with suspense. The one thing that sets Black Mirror apart is that the show tends to emphasize the dark side of new technologies. A show that's built on Neo-Luddism may seem like an odd fit for Netflix -- a dot-com darling that's leading the charge in the new way that we're consuming video entertainment -- but Netflix knows what it likes because it knows what its audience likes.

Netflix has been streaming the series for some time. It knows how its growing user base engages with the series. It knows how many people are watching, and it knows the stickiness of its content. It probably even knows more about Black Mirror's audience than Channel 4, the British public-service broadcaster that has been airing the show since its inception.

Data is a big part of Netflix's moat. It's probably not a coincidence that it seems to strike a chord with TV buffs so often when it finances shows including House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. When you're serving up billions of hours of content a month -- yes, billions -- you tend to have a good read on the pulse of Joe Couch Potato.

That's several layers of know-how deeper than what we can observe on the surface. After all, we know that Black Mirror is special. It's won an International Emmy and a Peabody award. Its rating on movie database giant is an impressive 8.8 on a scale of 10. It's a critically acclaimed show, and it has an edginess that's refreshing in the U.S., even by premium cable channel standards.

The scary thing for traditional media distributors is that Netflix is only going to get smarter. It has 65.5 million streaming customers worldwide on its rolls as of the end of the second quarter. It had just topped 50 million global accounts a year earlier. The bigger the data pool at Netflix grows, the easier it will be to decide when to bring a show back. This is what happened when it brought back Arrested Development for a fourth season. It has gone on to use success on its streaming platform to bring back other shows including Longmire earlier this month.

It's not the only way that Netflix decides what shows to pick up. We're getting new spins on Degrassi and Full House on Netflix in the coming months, and both shows are only available on its fading DVD platform. However, it all ultimately boils down to technology guiding its creative decisions -- even if it means ordering a dozen new episodes from a show that plays on the fears of technophobes.

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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