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Nielsen and Netflix Bump Heads Again on Programming Metrics

Netflix limited series 'Anatomy of a Scandal'
(Image credit: Netflix)

Call it "anatomy of a ratings scandal."

Once again, Nielsen's weekly "Streaming Top 10" rankings seem to be directly at odds with Netflix's "Global Top 10 (opens in new tab)," with the research company ranking Netflix limited original series Anatomy of a Scandal in fourth place for the week of April 18-24. Nielsen tallied 690 million viewing minutes for Anatomy of a Scandal for the week, trailing fellow Netflix shows Better Call Saul, Bridgerton and Cocomelon.

Netflix, which publishes hours viewed on its global platform just two days after completion of the week being measured, ranked Anatomy of a Scandal, a sexual thriller starring Sienna Miller, No. 1 among its English-language TV series with nearly 75.6 million hours viewed between April 18-24.

That was more streaming than any other show on Netflix's global platform that week, according to the streaming company. And notably, Netflix also declared Anatomy of a Scandal, which ranked in the top 10 in 89 Netflix countries, "No. 1 in the U.S." for the week.

(Image credit: Nielsen)

(Image credit: Netflix)

So who is right and who is wrong? 

Once again, we asked reps for both Nielsen and Netflix to explain this discrepancy. Nielsen said they'd get back to us. Netflix reps let us send them email. 

Next TV has recently gone down this same lonely, Quixotic road before, with both Nielsen and Netflix ignoring our requests for insight on perceived conflicting data. 

In early April, we tried to fact check both parties after Nielsen came up with conflicting performance benchmarks for the Netflix original popcorn movie The Adam Project, instead declaring Disney-Pixar film Turning Red the ratings winner for the week of March 7-13. 

Earlier, in January, we accused Nielsen of shortchanging Netflix on the Christmas-week performance of movie Don't Look Up. Nielsen quietly adjusted the Adam McKay Oscar-nominee's audience tally by a whopping 3x, noting the action in the fine print in the following week's ranker ... after most entertainment trades and other publications ran stories incorrectly declaring Disney Plus' Encanto the Christmas-week streaming audience champ. 

Could the discrepancies, which seem to occur weekly, be in methodology? 

It would be challenging to delve into the finer points of the two companies' proprietary measurement systems, even if they deigned to talk to us about this. 

We can say that Netflix's measurement system differs in scope (its global, spanning 190 countries, as opposed to Nielsen's U.S. focus), and Netflix measures by hours viewed, not minutes.

Notably, Netflix dissects its shows by season, while Nielsen combines all episodes for a series. But it doesn't appear that this is the reason for the April 18-24 discrepancy.

Both 10-episode seasons of Bridgerton ranked in Netflix's top 10 for English language series for that week, but their combined heft didn't come close to matching the audience for Anatomy of a Scandal.

And neither Better Call Saul nor Cocomelon even ranked in Netflix's English-language top 10 that week ... a factor that points to yet more conflict between the two rankers in and of itself. 

Certainly, it's a discrepancy that matters, with ratings data from both companies picked up by showbiz trades and other pubs and treated as weekly gospel. 

Stay tuned. We're going to keep hammering away at this. ▪️

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!