On August 18, Netflix premiered The Defenders, a series about a group of Marvel superheroes — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist — who all star in their own Netflix series.
For the streaming service, the launch of The Defenders is more than just the culmination of nearly four years of production spread across five shows. It’s also an opportunity to mine insights about the habits of Netflix’s viewers, who are flocking to the new crossover series from many different directions.
The story of The Defenders as it pertains to market research is the subject of a thorough piece in Wired, which interviewed Netflix VP of product David Yellin about the insights he is gleaning from his company’s new show. What makes The Defenders such a goldmine is the fact that the four shows it is linked to all attract different audiences. They’re all superhero shows, but they all possess their own themes, moods, and demographic tendencies. Viewers of the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black, for example, are more likely to gravitate to Jessica Jones than Daredevil because of the former show’s strong female protagonist and focus on crime. For House of Cards fans, on the other hand, Daredevil‘s morally gray shades make it a more appealing choice than Jessica Jones.
Head two degrees out from The Defenders, then, and you’ll find viewership links to a wide swath of Netflix originals. By seeing which fanbases show up to watch the superhero group in action, Netflix will learn which sections of its audience it should cater to going forward. “Even if you look at historical things like the Avengers series in movies that Marvel does—there you can do big surveys, but you never know exact behavior. But we will,” Yellin told Wired. “What we’re going to be learning as a company from both the algorithm side and the content side is what happens when you pair up shows that aren’t exactly the same thing.”
Netflix’s market research, as evidenced by sleeper hits like Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why, has been a strong asset for the streamer. The Defenders is far from a sleeper, but ironically, the information it provides could be crucial as Netflix searches for more under-the-radar successes in the future.