Netflix Releases Some Viewing Data, But CEO Dismisses Its Value

Is Netflix releasing more viewing data on specific programs? Yes, says Reed Hastings, chairman-CEO of the company. But only to a point.

During a recent two-day event in Los Angeles at Netflix’s Hollywood facility, Hastings told reporters that viewing data “doesn’t matter to anyone ... I don’t think it matters to consumers.”

“Over time, we’ll probably share more than less,” he added, but did not elaborate.

This can be confusing. Netflix has released data from time to time, most recently via a tweet, where it said in December: “... 45,037,125 Netflix accounts have already watched 'Bird Box'."

There is specific consumer promotional value here, as well as a reason for top-line film directors and producers to bring Netflix their next project.

There is another step rumored about Netflix — a connection with advertisers, something executives dismiss. Hastings has said there is no reason to release viewership data, because there are no advertisers on its service.



Even then, many have talked about the devaluing of actual TV viewership of shows over the last few years — more to favor specific advertising-business outcome measures. Still, TV marketers want to know how individual TV shows — and networks overall — are performing.

Now think about Netflix years from now, possibly five to 10 years down the road. Will it need to move to another financial model, which includes advertising support for a specific new service?

Here’s why: Walt Disney is already pulling back on much of its newer theatrical and other library TV and film content it sells to Netflix. Others may do the same. True, Netflix makes a lot more original content. But it also buys plenty of library and legacy TV programming.

With big streaming services coming -- Disney+, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia — they are bound to have some impact on Netflix's bottom line — lower revenue from slower subscriber growth.

Ed Papazian, president of Media Dynamics, in posting a comment on TV Watch, said: “Some of us figure that it's only a matter of time before Netflix — despite what it has said — offers an ad-supported option in order to deal with its mounting mountain of debt. Then what? Another round of disruption, I guess.”

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