The phrase “numbers don’t lie” is a common cliche used in all forms of media. But that phrase – and other cliches, for that matter – are used so frequently because they often contain truths that are hard to ignore.
In the world of entertainment, the numbers that matter most are ratings, which are tracked and measured for a variety of reasons. But streaming services such as Netflix (and Hulu and Amazon) have chosen not to report the ratings for their original series, instead opting to maintain secrecy around just how many people are tuning in at any given time.
But why would Netflix – a company that has enjoyed incredible success with its original content in recent years – not want to reveal the ratings for popular shows such as “Orange is The New Black,” “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “House of Cards,” “Making a Murderer” and its most recent phenomenon “Stranger Things”?
It’s not as if the company doesn’t keep track of such things. In fact, Netflix reported last month that it added 1.7 million new members, bringing its total number of subscribers to more than 83 million worldwide – a hefty figure that highlights the company’s status as a preeminent force in entertainment.
The primary reason Netflix has decided to keep its ratings under wraps is simply because of its business model. Traditional television networks earn most of their money through advertising, which calls for programming that will attract the most eyeballs for those ads to be seen. The higher the ratings, the more money advertisers will spend to promote their products.
Netflix, on the other hand, is a subscription-based service, so there is no need to worry about appealing to advertisers. And because of that, releasing viewership information may cause more harm than good, which goes along with the next point.
The company believes that the industry’s focus on ratings puts unnecessary pressure on those who produce the content, stifling creativity in the process. Back in January, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos said the emphasis on ratings creates an “arms race” and “has been remarkably negative in terms of its effect on shows,” according to Variety.
There is truth to that belief. Oftentimes we judge a show’s quality based on its ratings; similar to how we judge an album based on its sales, or a film based on its box office earnings – all of which on their own are oversimplified critiques.
An unintended (or perhaps fully intended) byproduct of the company’s secrecy is that it keeps the competition in the dark. It’s hard to gameplan against an opponent when you don’t know what you’re up against, and that frustrates executives at rival networks. However, in an attempt to eliminate such a disadvantage, NBC went as far as to enlist startup company SymphonyAM to gather data on exactly how many people are watching Netflix. Predictably, Netflix called the initial data inaccurate, but that hasn’t stopped SymphonyAM from continuing its research.
What were the latest findings?
SymphonyAM recently provided Business Insider with a list of the streaming service’s most watched shows within the first 35 days of release (“live + 35”). The top five shows were “Orange is The New Black” (15.9 million), “Fuller House” (15.7 million), “Stranger Things” (14.4 million), “Making a Murderer” (13.35 million) and “Daredevil” (8.34 million).
The accuracy of the data is unknown, especially since Netflix won’t reveal official numbers. But for the aforementioned reasons, it may be best for the streaming giant to keep us all guessing.