Specifically, CBS has said that CW’s program deal with Netflix and Hulu Plus has made the mini-broadcast network a money-making venture.
On-air broadcast network ratings won’t tell you anywhere near the complete picture for CW. About 20% of CW viewing happens via general online viewing and ad-supported video-on-demand outlets.
Said Mark Pedowitz, CW president: "We've always viewed ourselves beyond our linear ratings with our VOD and our online (viewing)." The network's digital viewing is generally sold to advertisers in TV network/online packages.
One writer at the Television Critics Association meeting wondered what would happen down the road if Netflix wasn’t around. Pedowitz said he believes another digital outlet would take its place. “That model now, particularly with serialized programming, is a necessity because that's where it actually thrives, because serialized programming never quite thrived in domestic broadcast syndication,” he said.
Think about this for other big broadcast or cable networks, say 10 years from now. What if their subscription VOD partners were the key to survival, rather than the more traditional cable, satellite or telco services?
First, it would seem that less advertising revenues would be involved. Right now, though, that would get complicated since some key services -- Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus -- won’t release actual viewership numbers for TV shows.
Complicating matters further will be forthcoming Nielsen OCR (online campaign ratings) numbers, which promise a more complete picture of digital TV viewing, at least when it comes to ad-supported services.
But here confusion might set in. TV analysts and journalists are accustomed to looking at overnight ratings. How will they consider the viewing of a program seven days, 21 days or 60 days after its premiere?
What kind of scorecard will they need, or should they even have one? Instead, they could just follow the flow of TV money (if that data is obtainable) -- which is really what everything is about, anyway.