In its recent fourth-quarter earnings phone call, Brian Olsavsky, CFO of Amazon, said the company’s Prime Video business doubled the amount of video hours subscribers saw in 2016. But he stopped short of providing specific figures on viewership.
Competitor Netflix doesn’t believe in releasing viewership on specific TV shows, either. It says Netflix shows air without advertising. (HBO doesn’t air advertising — and it has been releasing viewing data on its shows for years.)
Amazon Prime Video, which has earned big awards for “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” tends to side with Netflix's way of thinking. But this doesn’t mean third-party analysts aren’t trying to figure things out. Nielsen says it will do this; its TV studios clients are asking for it.
Other analysts are trying their luck. For example, Amazon’s top show was “The Man in the High Castle” -- averaging 3.44 million total viewers, according to Symphony Advanced Media.
For 2016, Symphony has said a new Amazon show, “The Grand Tour,” posted 1.9 million viewers in looking at its three-day opening weekend for its original episodes. Another recent effort, “Goliath,” posted 1.84 million looking at a 35-day period for original airings of an episode. Amazon’s “Bosch” posted 1.68 million through a 35-day period.
For the second season of Amazon’s “Transparent” -- September 2015 to May 2016 -- the show averaged 1.49 million total adult viewers, according to a Variety report on Symphony data.
In the earnings call, Olsavsky didn’t disclose how much TV development money Amazon Prime Video was spending -- but said it was growing. The hope is to make money, as Amazon Prime Video continues to get rolled out in international markets.
One analyst estimates Amazon has spent $250 million on original TV programming in 2016. By way of comparison, Netflix intends to spend $6 billion on original TV-movie content this year.
A major question is: What happens once Nielsen and perhaps others regularly start releasing viewer information for these subscription video on demand shows?
How will a Netflix or a Amazon respond during analysts earnings phone calls in the future? Will more traditionally looking TV viewing metrics make a difference?