Netflix is a very data-driven company. They no doubt have clear internal metrics not only on just how many people are watching Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, and Daredevil, but on how many episodes they’re watching in a single sitting, what part of the country they’re watching from, what time of day they’re doing it, and which bits, if any, they fast-forward. And they keep them all secret. Super duper secret.
Nielsen ratings for broadcast and cable shows have been fairly easy to come by, for networks and for audiences alike, for ages. But streaming content companies like Netflix and Amazon have kept their numbers mostly quiet. Since they rely on subscribers, and not on advertisers, they don’t necessarily need externally-sourced ratings data in the same way that networks do.
But for viewers, it’s still nice to know where things fall on the pop-culture barometer. And for programmers and content companies that might want to pitch a show to Netflix or clone what’s working elsewhere, the more data the better.
And so, Variety reports, there’s now a company out there — San Diego-based Luth Research — doing Netflix audience sampling, and coming up with some handy numbers.
For example, an estimated 10.7% of Netflix subscribers have watched at least one episode of Daredevil, Netflix reports. As of their most recent earnings report, Netflix has nearly 41 million U.S. subscribers, so the math says that’s over 4.3 million viewers. That’s better than many cable series and on par with some broadcast ones.
Among Netflix’s other original series, the third season of House of Cards pulled in about 6.5% of Netflix subscribers in its first month online, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt got about 7.3% of subscribers, and Bloodline is only reaching about 2.4%.
There is one big, huge caveat in the data from Luth Research is able to capture, though: while it includes viewers who use tablets, phones, and computers, it does not include viewers using TVs. Data from smart TVs, gaming consoles, and devices like Roku is not included in their sampling. So if TV viewers and mobile viewers don’t tend to watch the same sets of things, the ratings, such as they are, may be way off-base.
Netflix keeps their data proprietary on purpose, and would not comment to Variety about them.
As for Nielsen, Variety points out that the relationship between the new upstart and the old standby could actually be complementary, rather than rivalrous. Nielsen is poised to start measuring use of subscription streaming services on smart TVs, but the data they provide won’t extend to original programming, as Luth’s does.
Luth claims their tool is “industry-first” software capable of scraping encrypted data from inside the Netflix apps, which they can also match with data mined from other sources to get a sense of audience demographics and “user behaviors outside of Netflix.” The company also plans to start delivering data on Amazon Prime streaming ratings later this year.