Netflix Might Provide More Data About Viewership

Netflix, which has historically been contemptuous of attempts to measure who many people stream its shows, said it plans to be more forthcoming with audience data in the future.

During its first quarter earnings call Tuesday, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company is thinking about providing more viewer information to its producers, to subscribers and even the press.

Netflix has kept what it knows about how many people watch its shows secret, releasing viewing data for only a few of its biggest shows and movies, making comparisons to the ratings for broadcast and cable networks difficult. Netflix has been able to withhold its data because it doesn’t sell advertising.

Some data companies have tried to offer estimates of how many people watch some Netflix programs, but Netflix has belittled them as inaccurate. Two years ago, Nielsen, which measures the rest of the TV world, introduced Nielsen Subscription Video On Demand Content Ratings, which were designed to, at first, provide studios with data about how popular their shows are on Netflix.

Now, Sarandos said, Netflix is “trying to get to a place where we could be a lot more transparent, both with our producers and with our customers.”

Many customers want information on what other subscribers are watching because they want to make sure they’re on top of what’s popular.

“Being able to share some of those numbers gives people a better sense of what things they might be interested in as well,” Sarandos said.

In England, Netflix has been testing a feature that shows subscribers a Top 10 list of most popular shows on the service. 

Over the next few months, Netflix is going to be rolling out more specific granular data, first to its show producers, and then to members, and even the press over time, he said.

In its quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix provides some data about how some of its current shows performed with its near 150 million worldwide paid subscribers.

The streaming service claimed that its show Umbrella Academy was watched by 45 million member households during the first four weeks it was available.

The original movie Triple Frontier starring Ben Affleck was watched by more than 52 million households in its four weeks. Another movie, The Highwaymen with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrleson was seen by more than 40 million member households.

The documentary FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened garnered 20 million households in its first month, according to Netflix and Our Planet had been seen by 25 million.

The interactive family show You vs. Wild was seen by 25 million people during its first 28 days on Netflix.

Sarandos said that Netflix ramped up its spending on original programming because it expected media companies to keep the second windows of their shows for themselves.

The effort has been successful, according to Sarandos.
“It you look at our top ten most watched shows on Netflix, they’re all Netflix original brands,” he said. “There’s only four shows that have had at least a single season that crack into the top 25 even.”

In starting its streaming service, Disney is keeping the streaming rights to its movies to itself.

On the the other hand, AT&T, which is looking to start a streaming service later this year, agreed to let Netflix stream popular comedy Friends for another year. The price tag was reportedly $100 million, so acquired content still must have some value to Netflix.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.