Last week, NBC spent a good chunk of its Television Critics Association press event claiming that it has reliable Netflix ratings, and that once people bore of binge-watching a show they go back to “watching TV the way that God intended.” Now Netflix wants to know why NBC is wasting its time focusing on something other than NBC.
Speaking on Sunday at the TCAs, Netflix Content Chief Ted Sarandos mocked the “really remarkably inaccurate data” used by NBC and others in recent days, claiming that the “methodology and the measurement doesn’t reflect any sense of reality of anything we keep track of.”
More importantly, Sarandos wanted to know why NBC would take its time at the TCAs — an event where networks are supposed to be hyping up their best programming — talking about Netflix ratings.
“Maybe because it’s more fun than talking about NBC ratings,” he theorized, twisting the knife a bit.
One way to end the guesswork would be for Netflix to finally just reveal the viewership numbers for its shows. But Sarandos held firm that this would open the door to more problems.
“Once we give a number for one show, everything will be benchmarked off that show,” he explained, saying that, per the company’s current standards, some shows are intended to only be seen by two million people, while others are expected to reach 30 million users.
By putting a ratings number on original content, Sarandos says you’r putting “a lot of creative pressure on the talent that we don’t want to. We think that if a show performs over the long run, which is how we invested in it, it’s successful.”
He says the ratings “arms race” for live TV “has been remarkably negative in terms of the quality of shows.”
Another reason why ratings may be a pointless metric for streaming services: They are primarily a tool for setting advertising rates. If you’re not selling ads against your shows, all that really matters is if you’re continuing to make money.
“If we were spending a lot of money on shows people weren’t watching, they’d cancel,” explained Sarandos, noting that — unlike cable companies — you can “cancel Netflix with one click. Try calling your cable company and getting rid of a channel you’re not watching.”