TV Execs Are Sus At Netflix's Ratings Reports

Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
Things have been shaping up pretty nicely for Netflix. Their recent thriller-horror film, Bird Box, allegedly racked up over 45 million viewers back in December, and their recent TV hits, You and Sex Education, apparently hit the 4o million viewer mark. All this information, however, isn't coming from an objective source — it's coming from Netflix, which is why John Landgraf, the head of FX, says not so fast.
Netflix considers an episode as “viewed” if at least one has been watched at least 70% of the way through, and the high numbers they're reporting are global. It would be illegal for Netflix to report false information in their earnings letter, but still, Landgraf says viewers aren't getting the full story. At his executive session at the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Monday, Landgraf called out the high numbers' coincidence.
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“What do you know? The numbers look really big and promote the notion that many shows on their platform are gigantic hits that are watched more than shows on broadcast or basic cable," he said, according to The Wrap, later adding, “However, if you dig a little deeper, Netflix is not telling you the whole story because the numbers they issue do not follow the universally-understood television metric, the one you and prior generations of reporters have been using through their whole careers, which is average audience."
If you look at the numbers provided by Netflix in the way they're usually reported, Landgraf claims, the viewership is (still impressive but) much smaller: 8 million per episode, which he determined “using the traditional measurement metric average audience, which is calculated by adding up every minute viewed of an episode by season and dividing it by the total duration of the program."
Netflix declined to give Refinery29 a statement on Landgraf's claims, but it's undeniable that the company's large numbers have been making headlines as of late. Netflix clearly has some sway with viewership, considering when You originally premiered on Lifetime it garnered just 1 million views, per The Hollywood Reporter. Netflix's new tendency to announce their high ratings, however they're calculated, perhaps contributes to more viewership, since users want to see why everyone is tuning in, but Landgraf argues this is unfair to traditional outlets.
“I just genuinely believe that the rules should be made as a common good by everyone,” he said. “They have to be negotiated.”
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