When I wrote my post last month about how Hollywood needs to play more Moneyball, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea. Indeed, the Harvard Business Review has a story along these lines, about how analytics are going to play an increasingly big role in film production.
The Moneyball concept comes from Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane, who was faced with the dilemma of trying to compete in Major League Baseball on a shoestring budget. His solution was to assemble low-cost players who were able to get on base in non-traditional ways (i.e. drawing walks) and ultimately score a lot of runs.
The plan worked wonderfully, with the A’s winning a string of division titles, and Brad Pitt eventually starring in a movie about the story. SAS has a short article and video where Beane, Pitt and others explain the concept in more detail. The story also explains that Beane’s smart use of analytics can apply to any business.
The Harvard Business Review story looks at how movie studios will be able to prevent flops like John Carter precisely by using such analytics. The data could include: “anything from genre to budget, release date, release location, talent, type of marketing and amount of marketing spend, etc. Individually, they could all impact the revenue outcome — and influence each other.”
Other factors, such as weather, competing events, economic conditions and social media buzz can also be quantified and worked into the equation. While in my earlier post I talked about the need to assess actors’ returns on investment, the story suggests that “predictive analytics will be considered just as important as the producer, director, and actor who make a film a blockbuster.”
If that sounds robotic, that’s because it is. Taking the idea one step further, it’s possible – and even likely – that algorithms will be able to determine what will make a hit movie, which can ultimately remove humans from the process entirely.
It’s a little scary to think that films are going to become increasingly formulaic, but all is not yet lost to the robots. After all, those algorithms are useless without data to study, and there is no data without people – directors, actors and so on – to actually create it. If Hollywood studios do increasingly turn to Moneyball-like analytics to make financial decisions on films, they’ll have to remember the need to maintain a support system that gives unproven people a shot at becoming analytical A-listers.