Netflix Claims 40M Viewers For 'You,' Rivals Dispute The Figure

Netflix says one of its shows will pull in 40 million viewers. John Landgraf, CEO, FX Networks says no way.

Now you know why third-party measurements of TV and video content are so important.

Netflix claims its “You” series, coming off of Lifetime, was tracking to be viewed by over 40 million member homes at the end of its first four weeks.

This from a tweet on January 17 (with an accompanying photo): “Joe isn't the only one watching: @YouNetflix is on track to be viewed by more than 40 million members in its first four weeks on Netflix!”

Landgraf, speaking at the Television Critics Association, said don’t believe it. It’s more like 8 million.



He says Netflix “does not follow the universally understood television metric, the one you and prior generations of reporters have been using through their whole careers, which is average audience.” Well, maybe he meant average minute audience.

Netflix hasn’t responded in kind. For example, that FX Network’s “American Horror Show” only has 500,000 viewers. Nielsen says its average minute audience was 2 million viewers last season.

Surely, there are ample complaints about panel-based TV measurement companies in an age of server-based TV platforms like Netflix. But we only have Netflix’s word here, and not much granular detail beyond that 40 million number.

This is why, whatever the process, there is a need, in addition to other first-party data, to have third-party metrics, whether panel-based, census-based or otherwise.

Netflix biggest argument against releasing much of its viewing details is that it doesn’t sell TV advertising -- which is how much of Nielsen’s data is used.

Despite Netflix's scant efforts, there’s no doubt big-time TV producers and studios would like to see any regular Netflix viewing data for programming, especially WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal or Walt Disney, which might sell content to the digital video platform.

For a long time, Netflix has been reluctant to release much of this viewing data, an effort to control future content negotiations.

You think things will get easier? Now we have Netflix moving to produce and controll its own original content, while traditional TV/movie studio companies ramp up direct-to-consumer digital efforts to compete.

Decades ago HBO, as a premium cable channel, was also reluctant to release viewing data. But it evolved, realizing the marketing potential to promote value to cable operators, satellite and telco providers -- and consumers.

That last part -- consumers -- will be what concerns Netflix. (So will Oscar and Emmy hardware.)

We realize still growing broadband (and future 5G) providers, coming from cable operators and telecommunications, are the future middlemen when it comes Netflix’s business efforts.

Will they ask -- or demand -- to see Netflix’ viewing metrics in deciding the value of the video service in the future?

2 comments about "Netflix Claims 40M Viewers For 'You,' Rivals Dispute The Figure".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 7, 2019 at 10:15 a.m.

    No matter how "audience" is defined, what we are seeing is Netflix using some sort of "total audience" rating based on device usage, compared with average minute---commercial-on-screen minute, that is---ratings for TV. It's a well known fact that a lot of people tune in to a show late or tune out berore it ends or dial switch but later return while the show is still on progress. The differential between "total audience" and "average minute" audience for half hour shows is about 20%; for one-hour shows, the spread is naturally, larger as there is more opportunity for people to miss portions of the telecast but still get something out of what parts they happened to see. Typically, a one-hour show's "total sampling audience is 30% higher than its average minute rating. And, as one might expect, the gap is much wider for long duration telecasts like NFL football games, movies, etc. 

    In ancient times when many nationally-aired TV shows had a single sponsor, Nielsen developed it's "total audience" rating, counting any home that tuned in for at least 6 minutes as a way to show sponsors what their total reach per episode mught be. When the networks took control over their shows and single sponsors departed the scene, average minute ratings were seen as a far better metric reflecting the likely audience potential for an average commercial minute. Although commercial zappers are now deleted and most commercials are either "30s" or "15s", ---not "60s"---the average commercial  minute rating---is still the best way to evaluate shows of varying lengths as to their ability to reach people at a comparabe time in the telecast. Once Netflix starts to sell ads---as I believe is inevitable---it will have little choice but to adopt "TV-style" reporting.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, February 7, 2019 at 3:34 p.m.

    Wayne, you wrote "For example, that FX Network’s “American Horror Show” only has 500,000 viewers. Nielsen says its average minute audience was 2 million viewers last season."

    By that do you mean that FX is saying that 'Amercian Horror Show" has 500,000 viewers by counting connected boxes tuned to the show via cable or streamed via the Internet, but the Nielsen panel returned 2 million?

    Could it be that both are "right", because FX can't see how many people are watching the show on their TV or other connected device.   Four people in a room seems a bit high these days, but it is not impossible.   A rule of thumb is that the smaller the viewers per stream is closer to 1.0, whereas the bigger the stream it is generally around 1.8 to 2.2

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