Commentary

Soon, We Might Know Who's Watching Netflix

We measure.

In baseball, the batting champ may be .1 better than the guy in second. When the Chrysler Building neared completion in 1930, the designer secretly got permission to add a spire that made it just a little bit bigger than the world’s tallest building down on Wall Street. Guinness has a whole books of records, dubious and not.

But for Netflix, measuring who watches it has so far been elusive, and it bothers TV executives who live and surely die by the Nielsen numbers. Last month, you’ll recall NBC’s top numbers cruncher, Alan Wurtzel, disclosed some of the data it has on Netflix using its own research.

Netflix bashed them for that, discredited the accuracy and hooted that possibly NBC was fascinated by Netflix’s audience because it didn’t have any better research--about themselves--to talk about.

Now it appears that comScore plans to change that in just a couple months. According to Advanced Television, comScore says that its new Total Home Panel will be able to measure over-the-top services like Netflix and Amazon.  That should be ready by Q3.

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Earlier this year, comScore merged with Rentrak and promised to be a bigger rival to Nielsen than either of them had been separately.

That battleground is being fought mainly on the battlefield of devices, from TVs to smartphones to game consoles to over-the-top devices.

Nielsen has its own Total Audience Measurement technology rolling out this year too, and apparently it also has the ability to track viewership of Netflix or Amazon programming too, at least to an extent.  

Nielsen does it for studios that supply audio files to them so that’s picked up by boxes in Nielsen panelists’ homes and then intuits the info to the source. Adweek says that unusual route is taken because Netflix and Amazon strip watermarks from its content.  

That audio match sounds like the way NBC got its Netflix “ratings,” compiled for the network by ad tech company Rhapsody.

The comScore Total Home Panel is now measuring 4,000 devices, ramping up to 60,000 by the summer and 300,000 by the end of the year.

But the official rollout is planned for April, just a month before the television upfronts and shortly before digital’s NewFronts. Obviously, comScore is hoping to be the buzz of the ball but whether it will influence buyers, so soon after its introduction, seems to be a stretch.

Speaking just for myself, though, I'll be fascinated to learn the audience for Amazon’s second season of “Transparent” or that new season of “House of Cards” on Netflix. It seems to me that if it starts getting around that not everything SVOD streamers create is a sensational hit with online viewers, that could shake things up. 

pj@mediapost.com

5 comments about "Soon, We Might Know Who's Watching Netflix".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 18, 2016 at 2:28 p.m.

    Nielsen has always had the wherewithal to measure Netflix viewing, by adding a question to the diary or by making random calls to their panels in the days following a new release. But they chose not to even try because they fancy themselves the gold standard and no one would pay them for their efforts. Hubris is not just a flaw of the Greek gods.

  2. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, February 18, 2016 at 2:56 p.m.

    PJ you missed the Point with your Netflix post....people are not under contract to subscribe to Netflix, they pay becuase they love the user experience of the interface and it works. It is a new model.

    Comparing a delicious orange to a ripe apple using comscore or Nielsen doesnt make sense- there just isn't any ads to be sold.......

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 18, 2016 at 3:08 p.m.

    Douglas, Nielsen doesn't use diaries to measure anything, nationally. As for calling up people to ask them what they are watching, that's a hopelessly inefficient and outdated methodology. The real issue concerns the ability to indentify each Netflix program so the meters can quantify its audience in the same manner as they do for broadcast and cable fare. If an audio ID or recognition system solves this problem, then Nielsen will be able to give us a lot of interesting data on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.

  4. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com replied, February 18, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.

    Leonard--I agree. People do love Netflix and Amazon just about as much as most people who write about Netflix. But discovering, for example, that not everything there is a smash hit might cool the anticipation of people who still don't subscribe. I think Netflix gets a bit of a critical pass from some viewers. Like HBO's old "it's not TV, it's HBO" line, some so-so stuff there seems to enjoy a halo effect. 

  5. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC replied, February 18, 2016 at 9:26 p.m.

    I'll just quibble with "love". Netflix is a fine service. For people who become passionate about their shows I expect there is some "love". Yet just this week they lost all their BBC programs. It might not have been Netflix's fault but there's little "Netflix love" around my HH this week with the loss of Doctor Who :-)

    Truth is it's just a service and delivers a fine value for the price - far better than the old video store model. There are some people who find it much more. But let's not exaggerate how exciting it is...

    The reason they pay? It's a fair deal and easy to use if they have the right setup. 

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