Revealed! Who's Watching Netflix Hits

Don’t cry for NBC quite yet. Alan Wurtzel, the network’s long time  president of research and development, told TV critics visiting Los Angeles on their semi-annual press event that while Netflix and Amazon and others are taking pieces out of TV, it’s not hardly as much as the sky-is-falling reports indicate.

But more than that, the big news from Wurtzel was some bean-spilling about the network’s research into real numbers behind viewership of big OTT outfits. Numbers aren't easily come by from those streaming giants.

NBC's data comes Symphony Advanced Media sampling 15,000 viewers over 35 days. The results are like this: “Jessica Jones” on Netflix  drew 4.8 million during that time frame, Aziz Ansari’s “Master Of None” grabbed  3.9 million, “Narcos” attracted 3.1 million  and Amazon’s “Man In The High Castle” had 2.1 million. 



Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black” attracted 644,000, though over all time, it’s the most popular series on Netflix.

The big point Wurtzel wanted to make was that traditional TV just drags in audiences day after bloody day, all the time, forever, while online services have brief, hot moments. Netflix titles get viewed intensely and that not so much in weeks after, more like a movie opening than a TV series. Wurtzel said 23% of all viewers watched “Orange/Black” the first week of its season premiere June 11, but 77% watched conventional TV. By the fifth week, as reported by Deadline Hollywood, “Orange/Black” got just 3% of all viewers. Netflix and Amazon,it would appear, live on binge viewers. 

Those numbers are palatable for networks only if they don’t mind giving up a quarter of your viewership for one week, or 3% during ordinary times, and forfeiting it to a service that was basically non-existent before 2007. If it’s Netflix versus all of the TV world, it will lose every time, probably forever. 

But it’s getting a pretty substantial bite, and since we know very little about who is watching Netflix or Amazon any information, however spun, is interesting. As shorthand,  the idea that “nobody” watches NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, is pretty common and it must be pretty irksome to Wurtzel. Really though, it’s just nobody compared to the good old days. Broadcast networks trotted out similar stats when cable began its ascendancy.

Variety notes that Wurtzel also pointed out that the presence of digital versions of NBC’s wearisome “Law & Order SVU” has helped bring down the average age of the new versions still showing on NBC. It’s never had better 18-24 demos. That may be useful data as networks and studios reconsider if whether selling off-network packages to Netflix, Amazon or Hulu is really good business. 

THIS JUST IN...OR OUT: Just because I’m a softy, I thought all of you should see the birth of Braxton Bowens, 8 lbs., 14 ounces, born today in Wilmington, Calif., and the first baby ever born on Periscope, with 632 people watching. Be there. Go Braxton!

6 comments about "Revealed! Who's Watching Netflix Hits".
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  1. Michael Elling from IVP Capital, LLC, January 14, 2016 at 2 p.m.

    Static datapoints are meaningless.  Need to look at the trend and see how additional content and absolute viewership is increasing OTT's share.  It's like saying that a majority of folks were still being moved by horse in 1900 and there was nothing to worry about from cars.  The latter need roads!

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 14, 2016 at 2:36 p.m.

    As with any information, consider the source. You have to believe that you're being shown the whole picture, not just what the nettworks want you to report. Do you think Wurtzel would share a study that makes NBC look bad?

  3. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, January 14, 2016 at 3:25 p.m.

    Alan Wurtzel needs to understand that the upheaval is the millennials' preference for non-traditional media sources and New Media companies are creating the new habits and spending among the new generation(s) and it is spreading to other generations. Same reason why ImBev is having so many problems being a "Corporate" product rather than a "Craft" product with a story. Sampling is old hat. The Netflix analytics would blow Alan's mind away.....

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 14, 2016 at 4:58 p.m.

    Since I have no information on Alan's study I can neither accept or reject its findings as reported in this article. I find it interesting, however, that there were no demographic breakdowns---like viewers by age or education---which Alan probably has but is keeping to himself.

    Our about-to-be released annual report. "TV Dimensions 2016", also has some interesting new information about Netflix users. In our case, we focused on the kinds of broadcast network, syndicated and cable shows that Netflix streamers reported watching in a recent survey. As subscribers to "TV Dimensions 2016" will soon be noting, while Netflix streamers are, indeed, younger and more affluent---no surprise there ---and claim to be more inclined towards lighter than frequent viewing, they watch a suprising abount of basic cable fare---which suggests, in support of what Leonard is saying, that they tend to crave a different diet of entertainment content than what the broadcast networks are offering. That said, Netflix users still consume a fair amount of primetime broadcast network programming, but not nearly as much of it as older, downscale audiences who, as yet, have not become SVOD users.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 14, 2016 at 5:09 p.m.

    Douglas, all that Alan is quoted as saying is that the broadcast networks still reach a lot more people than Netflix, which is true. Whether this has any bearing on future developments is hard to say. I happen to believe that the broadcast networks and basic cable will continue to draw large audiences of SVOD users as well as those who don't subscribe, primarily with their daytime, late night, sports and news fare and, in the case of cable, with the wide diversity of other program types---documentaries, cooking shows, houseflipper sagas, movies, etc---because the SVOD services are not presenting such content and there is a need for it. The primetime broadcast network entertainment story is quite another matter and this is where the rating attrition has been--on a relative basis---the greatest. If I were the networks I would be exploring the idea of launching new primetime content via SVOD, then using the same shows on their primetime schedules to garner ad revenues. I believe that this idea has dawned on them but, as usual, they are proceding very cautiously.

  6. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, January 15, 2016 at 6:13 p.m.

    Interesting comments Ed. As I watch Netflix the question I always ask is (a) how much it is a replacement for the video store vs. (b) how much it is entertainment programming that is watched in replacement of TV time.

    My guess has been that the majority of its use is still what we might call "Blockbuster Online" - even in binge viewing. (Do we forget that people used to rend DVDs or VHS copies of entire seasons and binge watch them? Netflix has increased the binge-ing, but it's not an invention of Netflix.)

    And that hunch is consistent with these numbers. But I also realize there's so much we DON'T know that being absolutely certain about anything surrounding Netflix is tough.

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