Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos isn’t impressed with the recent talk about his company’s ratings. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sarandos’ Sunday morning Television Critics Association presentation was derailed with questions about Netflix’s notoriously secretive stance on ratings. The topic of Netflix and the methods company uses to track ratings was thrust into the spotlight by NBC Universal executive Alan Wurtzel.
During Wurtzel’s Wednesday Television Critics Association presentation, he claimed that Symphony, a San Francisco tech firm, tracked data and sound recognition for 15,000 viewers in September, October, November, and December, 2015. According to Symphony, the recently renewed Jessica Jones garnered Netflix over 4 million viewers in the coveted adults 18-49 age demographic. Other Netflix originals, Master of None (3.9 million adults 18-49) and Narcos (3.2 million adults 18-49). Critically acclaimed Netflix originals Daredevil and House of Cards weren’t included in the data, as their seasons premiered earlier in 2015.
Wurtzel wrapped his presentation by pointing out that Netflix operates a model designed to encourage costumers to pay for the service for another month. By contrast, NBC and other networks live by their ability to create television with a broad appeal to woo the maximum number of viewers for advertisers to capitalize on. Wurtzel’s motive for the leak is clear, to send a message to advertisers that the network model isn’t dead.
If Wurtzel’s numbers are accurate, the highest rated NBC show, Blindspot, garnered nearly twice as many viewers as the highest rated Netflix original. According to TV Series Finale, Blindspot finished 2015 with over 8 million viewers, compared to Jessica Jones‘ 4 million.
The problem is, the numbers aren’t accurate. Sarandos dismissed Wurtzel’s numbers several times during his Television Critics Association presentation. Sarando wondered why NBC would use precious press time to speculate on the ratings of Netflix originals, accusing Wurtzel of trying to deflect attention away from NBC’s weaker lineup. Sarandos also pointed out that NBC’s data is both inaccurate and completely useless. Nielsen data tracks overall viewers, but particularly focuses on adult viewers between 18-years-old and 49-years-old, a group that typically has a high level of disposable income. Because Netflix relies on subscribers rather than advertisers to fund the company, the 18-49 demographic is meaningless to them.
“I can’t even tell you how many 18-49 users we have… we don’t track them. Those sample sets don’t give you a lot of information when people are watching thousands of shows [on Netflix] around the world. Somewhere in the world, every second of every day, someone is pressing start on a Netflix original… There is not an apples to apples comparison to Netflix watching and any Nielsen rating.”
According to USA Today, Sarando fired back at accusations that Netflix doesn’t make programming with a broad appeal by unveiling over 600 hours of original programming Netflix intends to launch in 2016. Fuller House, a reboot of the popular sitcom Full House, leads the pack of 20 new shows Netflix will air this year. Netflix subscribers will also get access to an exclusive comedy series produced by Judd Apatow, a Will Arnett comedy series, and Marseilles, a French drama headlined by veteran actor Gerard Depardieu.
For viewers craving nostalgia, Netflix has The Ranch, a multi-camera comedy that reunites That 70’s Show‘s Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, and a new installment of the popular Degrassi series.
Perennial Netflix favorites House of Cards, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Daredevil, and Orange is the New Black will air new seasons in 2016.
But even as Netflix continues to expand its critically acclaimed original series, the list of the company’s enemies is growing. The Wall Street Journal reports that rival French pay-television group Canal Plus and Sky PLC discussed joint bidding on the rights to air popular American shows in select European markets. The move came after Netflix acquired exclusive rights to air Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. Reportedly, rival companies in other international markets have discussed similar tactics in the hopes of stalling the global spread of Netflix.
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