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5 numbers that matter to the 'House of Cards' creator

Boris McGiver, Sebastian Arcelus, Beau Willimon, Jayne Atkinson and Michael Gill attend 73rd Annual George Foster Peabody awards at The Waldorf=Astoria on May 19, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Executives at Netflix knew Beau Willimon's "House of Cards" would be a hit, long before anyone saw it.

They'd crunched the copious numbers available on their audience - they knew who was watching what and when, on the most granular of levels (like, yes, if you spend 13 hours in front of your screen without pause, someone out there sees you). Their millions of subscribers liked films by director David Fincher, and they'd watch just about anything with actor Kevin Spacey. The British version of the show was already doing well. It seemed like one sure bet

Beau Willimon, however, cares about none of this. As he told Kai Ryssdal, not everyone at Netflix is awash in the same numbers - here are the figures that matter to him: 

Practically 0

...Willimon sees almost no data on "House of Cards." In his words: "I know virtually nothing."

Practically 0, redux

... and he doesn't want to see any data.

"Those numbers can lead to either forced choices that have nothing to do with the creative process, or, conversely, coming from the creative side, a form of pandering. Because you become obsessed with those numbers and try to cater to them. So, I don't have to deal with any of that... You can't get addicted to heroin if it's not available to you."

26 hours, guaranteed

Netflix made a big promise from the start: Two seasons, no matter what. 

"Knowing that I had 26 hours meant that I had a broad canvas I could paint on. I knew there were things I could lay in early on in season one that might not fully come back til the end of season two. So you could really delve deeper into characters. You don't feel rushed. You don't have to force big cliffhangers or jump the shark in order to try to make something dramatic happen unorganically, the way that some shows feel the pressure to, becasue they're in a ratings game week to week, fighting for their life. 

Infinite

...the amount of angst that goes into "House of Cards".

"All we really care about is the work we're trying to do that day. Trying to tell the best story we can... Constantly contending with our own sense of self-doubt and self-loathing, which is worse than any data set."

At least 1

 ...piece of data he wouldn't share with us.

 No, he wouldn't give us a release date for "House of Cards" season three. 

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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