Netflix’s programmatic punch

Jordan-Leigh Connelly, Media Executive


If your news feeds are anything like mine you’ll have found it difficult to escape Black Mirror’s new release on Netflix. Black Mirror is commonly known for producing stories that tap into the collective unease surrounding how the modern world is being shaped by emerging technology and ‘Bandersnatch’ is no exception. The show is an interactive story that lets you, the viewer, control what actions and decisions the protagonist makes with each decision leading to different outcomes and endings. We get to choose whether he eats Sugar Puffs or Frosties, select what music he listens to and even choose whether he jumps off of a building or not. You’re given 10 seconds to make a choice and if you don’t, Netflix chooses for you and the story will continue on from there.

Netflix is famous for gathering data from user participation, in turn providing subscribers with personalised content, suggestions and recommendations based on previous views, selections and ratings. Since Bandersnatch’s release on the platform discussions are now focusing on whether Netflix can use this data to create an internal programmatic marketing infrastructure giving Netflix a much needed advantage in a now crowded streaming market. Netflix have avoided advertising on the platform thus far being content with driving revenues from their subscription fees but with increased competition from the likes of Disney and Amazon Prime, could leading the market with a new form of ‘in-programme’ advertising in the form of programmatic product placement be the answer?



Strictly speaking, Netflix’s data and pattern discovery could provide insights into trend analysis that traditional simply cannot provide as it is indicative of real-world decisions like product preference, and musical taste. It wouldn’t be the first time Netflix has used user-generated data as it has previously guided Netflix’s creative decision making when it comes to creating original content such as its 2017 original movie ‘Bright’.

Looking at the Frosties vs. Sugar Puffs interactive question in Bandersnatch, the selection had no real bearing on the plot and could technically allow Netflix to cater products and brands to consumers based on their demographics e.g. my own of; female, 18-35, preference for Dramas with the added note on my selection of Frosties. It could be possible to incorporate products based on these choices i.e. I see Frosties advertised where others would see Sugar Puffs.

But, is the data-driven approach the way forward?

This new data does have the ability to segment by audience and target accordingly but with the consumer tendency to ad block and continuous worry about the way their data is used, this could alienate users who pay for the ad free experience and the platform would have the added challenge of dealing with the same issue with lack of transparency that programmatic sees today. I for one would not be happy if advertising started interfering with my favourite TV shows no matter how much I enjoy a bowl of Frosties and I think it’s safe to say we will be alright – but who knows what the future will hold.