Amazon Mines Its Data Trove to Bet on TV’s Next Hit

In May, a dozen Amazon.com Inc. executives, including Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, gathered in a Seattle conference room to select the first original TV shows the company would produce for its streaming video service.

A group of 14 “pilot” episodes had been posted on the company’s website a month earlier, where they were viewed by more than one million people. After monitoring viewing patterns and comments on the site, Amazon produced about 20 pages of data detailing, among other things, how much a pilot was viewed, how many users gave it a five-star rating and how many shared it with friends.

Those findings helped the executives pick the first five pilots — winnowed down from an original pool of thousands of show ideas — that would be turned into series. The first will debut this month: “Alpha House,” a political comedy about four politicians who live together, written by Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau.

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