When Netflix ushered in the era of video streaming, it helped shatter traditional TV ratings. Now the company says it wants to get them back, like this: The streaming giant is about to start publishing lists of its most watched TV shows and movies, which it will update weekly.
Netflix data will appear on its own Web site, which will offer several lists of the top 10, in which the headlines are ranked according to the number of hours spent by the company’s subscribers watching them. The company will have global TV and movie ratings, as well as top 10 listings for 90 different countries. Netflix also says it will engage accounting firm Ernst & Young to verify its performance and will release the company’s report next year.
This will have little to no effect on how you watch Netflix – unless you’re going to track data on how other people watch Netflix. Which, frankly, some people…
Here’s an example of what Netflix ratings would look like – these charts rank Netflix’s global views in the second week of November and include content that Netflix owns and also licenses from other companies:
One streaming company regularly posting its own viewer data is not the same as the old world of television when Nielsen regularly monitored the consumption of views for all TV networks and made this data widely available.
But we no longer live in this world. Instead, video viewing is increasingly split into different streaming services owned by different companies that carefully select audience data to share when they think they have something to brag about.
Netflix is no different from its competitors in this regard: it publishes these new numbers because they think they reflect Netflix well.
While these numbers might be interesting to you as a Netflix watcher, the numbers are really aimed at a professional audience. This includes investors who want to see if the billions of dollars that Netflix spends on content are turning into Things People Watch (note that the two top 10 lists above are dominated by content that Netflix made instead of renting). It also means that Hollywood talent wants to make sure that what they do for Netflix is watched by a lot of people.
The numbers also pose an unspoken challenge to rival streaming services such as Disney +, Hulu, and Peacock: We dare you to post your numbers using the same methodology because we bet they are much smaller than ours.… It’s also worth noting that the main audience for traditional TV ratings — advertisers who wanted to know what to spend their money on — is irrelevant here, since Netflix does not run ads.
Netflix used to keep all of its viewing data to itself, and at first bristled when outsiders tried to measure the show on their own. But two years ago, he began selectively and periodically releasing some of his numbers – always the ones that flattered the company.
The numbers also drew ridicule from competitors and critics. This is partly due to a lack of real transparency in reporting, and partly because of Netflix’s strange and changing definition of what a “presentation” is. At first, Netflix said that viewing happens if someone has watched 70 percent of the TV show; the company then changed that and said that anyone who watched the show for even two minutes is considered a spectator.
Now Netflix simply tracks how much time its viewers collectively spend on a show or movie. In theory, this means that two people are watching Red noticethis lousy but popular action movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot will count as one person who has watched the movie twice.
Let’s say Netflix does Red notice continuation. (Plus: The movie, which reportedly had a $ 200 million budget, suggests Netflix is trying to create its own action-packed franchise; Minus: It looks like it was filmed for many less than $ 200 million.) But with the new numbers that Netflix publishes, you don’t have to rely on contextless bragging rights like this to gauge if it’s a good idea:
On the other hand, consumers’ fetishisation of behind-the-scenes information about the entertainment they consume does not necessarily improve their experience. We used to watch TV shows and movies without really knowing how many people were watching, and that was great. Feel free to ignore all of this.