Netflix executive explains why platform refuses to release ratings figures

Company has remained enigmatic about viewership

Clémence Michallon
New York
Thursday 31 October 2019 15:57
The Netflix logo is seen on a computer in Washington, DC, on 10 July, 2019.
The Netflix logo is seen on a computer in Washington, DC, on 10 July, 2019.

A Netflix executive has revealed the reason behind the company’s refusal to publish detailed ratings figures.

Scott Stuber, Netflix’s head of original films, was asked about the platform’s policy during a roundtable with other film executives, organised by The Hollywood Reporter.

Stuber was asked why the company has so far refrained from releasing full viewership numbers, even though some have asked for more transparency.

At first, Stuber answered by saying “We tell all the filmmakers, so the filmmakers have” but the interviewer countered that “that’s not the same thing”.

Stuber then gave a more detailed explanation, saying that Netflix’s approach to ratings figures is embedded in the company’s DNA.

“I understand. Let me finish,” he said. “I also think part of it is just the aspirational way that [chief content officer Ted Sarandos] and [vice-president of original content Cindy Holland] built the TV side, which Jen understands, coming from network TV.

“It was for television creators to get out of ratings and Standards and Practices and actually free up their narrative form so that they could tell stories that weren’t [influenced] night after night by those numbers. So the methodology was right. And now, as we have grown … we are used to it.”

Stuber indicated that subscribers might see more transparency in the future, though he didn’t disclose specifics.

“We do it in some of our earnings reports, and we are going to be doing it more and more because that filmmaker and that actor and that actress want to know that their movie got out there globally in a big way,” he added.

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Netflix periodically releases viewership figures, such as when it said on 8 July that the third season of Stranger Things had been watched by 40.7m household accounts since its premiere on 4 July.

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This would mark the biggest four-day debut for any film or series on the platform.

Nielsen, a measurement firm that supplies TV ratings, mostly reflected those findings, Vulture reported at the time.

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