Content Finance Engineering at Netflix
Everyone knows Stranger Things. You know about Eleven, demogorgons and the Up-Side-Down. But you probably don’t know all the amazing feats it takes to create such a spectacular show. How long before the first scene was shot did people plan for? How much did the story change along the way? How much does a show like that cost to make? As part of Content Engineering at Netflix we deal with exactly this and want to invite you into our world.
Follow the money and you’ll find the answers to a lot of questions. If that’s true, we in the Content Finance Engineering team have a lot of answers for you. Our team enables our business for all the planning, spending, and accounting for all-things-content for Netflix. These insights can be anything from: How much should we spend in the next year on International Documentaries? Are we trending to go over our production budget and do I need to step in to keep things on track? How should this new asset (our content) be capitalized so our books are balanced? Regardless of the perspective - we have your answer.
Scaling The Studio
Whether you’re talking about managing a production’s finances, rallying legal documents and negotiations together, or streamlining encoding processes to enable post-production in the cloud, and more - we’re approaching them all the same way within our studio in a 1x 2x, 10x framework:
__1x: Get manual workflows online into the ecosystem
2x: Connect systems and workflows to enable scale and realized efficiencies
10x: Centralize intelligence to gain and act on unique insights __
We’re in the early stages of building out this ecosystem, but already we’re paving the road to enable answering missions critical questions with the simplicity of a click. What could the potential of leveraging the 10x-World look like? Could we predict which shows are going over budget before they even start production? What is the optimal spend on content for a given year? What about in a given region? What if location scouts were able to use VR and all previously scouted locations to identify the best places to shoot? What are some 10x opportunities you can imagine?
Content Finance Engineering
As we plan for the amazing world of what we can build towards, our Content Finance Engineering team is building the path to get there. We generally focus on planning what our content spend should look like in the coming years, paying for content we’re making, and accounting for the money we’ve spent on content. As part of the engineering team, it's critical to have the business context. Why we’re doing something? How does this impact our stakeholders, the business and the rest of the ecosystem? What is the right solution for this now, and how will it evolve in the future? We work up and down the tech stack, across many aspects of the business.
Here are some of the business problems we’re tackling in our space:
Programming a global catalog years ahead of the release date is hard. What is the right combination of data, intuition, and analytics to help create the best slate possible?
Spending both too much and too little money on a production is problematic. Either you went over budget, or you didn’t make the content as great as it could have been. What are the real-time systems we can have in place to ensure our productions are financially healthy. How can we best predict, manage, and coordinate budgets and spending?
Treating talent fairly and paying them on time and accurately is exceptionally important to us. Our systems need to be highly accurate and timely in order to continue having a great working relationship with our amazing talent.
Accounting and capitalizing our spend has to be highly accurate, since these are the numbers we report to Wall Street.
More specifically, here are some of the technical challenges we’re addressing:
Real-time state tracking using eventing.
Efficient scenario planning computing clusters to enable complex forecasting configurations
Data reconciliation frameworks across a heterogeneous tech stack to enable quick and easy reconciliation.
How do we provide sensitive data to our Netflix data lake while taking PII and other sensitive aspects in consideration?
*If real-time state tracking is of interest, come listen to Nitin Sharma’s talk at Kafka Summit 2019 in San Francisco. He’ll be presenting how we’ve leveraged Kafka to approach our messaging problem within our Studio Ecosystem.
Does any of the above sound interesting? Come work with our stunning colleagues  who are building the future of Netflix’s Studio. If you’re interested, feel free to reach out to me or any of the team below - we’d love to chat with you.
Some of the systems we build relate to Production Finance and Content Accounting. Here are some great videos to give more color about how that works within the industry and inside Netflix.