Netflix Exec: NBC’s Data About Streaming Viewership Inaccurate

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Last week, NBC executive Alan Wurtzel stated, that while using third party ratings data, streaming service viewership wasn’t exactly as large of a number as perhaps the hype around the services might lead people to believe.

He cited data that basically showed all Netflix and Amazon originals to be drawing in viewership that, while decent, wouldn’t be topping any charts of the major networks. And while this data was coming from third party service providers Symphony, whose methodology wasn’t discussed in much detail, Wurtzel seemed confident enough to get on stage and cite the numbers.

This weekend, though, Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos took the opportunity at TCA to fire back at Wurtzel’s numbers, calling it, “remarkably inaccurate data.” He also went on to say, “I hope they didn’t spend any money on it.” (h/t THR).

Sarandos didn’t hold back, basically commenting on the fact that NBC was spending so much time focused on Netflix and their original shows that they did in fact feel incredibly threatened by the service.

As we commented previously as well, specific viewership data isn’t perhaps even a number that Netflix makes its key performance indicator of any original new shows, instead perhaps finding ways to track direct signups due to new series they produce. For example, it seems reasonable that Netflix could pretty easily track the first handful of shows and movies that a new user views, giving them information into perhaps what specific content they were looking to stream when they signed up for the service. Netflix would probably still be happy with much lower viewership numbers on a show like ‘Grace and Frankie’ if it gave them the opportunity to appeal to a new demographic of potential Netflix subscribers.

For NBC, where they need viewership numbers to sell advertising, such numbers are vitally important in making content decisions. At the end of the day, Netflix is simply looking for your monthly subscription. There is plenty of intersection here, but they’re by no means identical. In other words, obviously Netflix and NBC are focusing on different metrics.

Regardless, Wurtzel’s comments certainly got the entertainment media buzzing, which perhaps was the intended outcome anyways. To get Netflix on the defensive about otherwise opaque data makes sense. If Netflix and other similar streaming options are the future then it certainly helps to start creating a benchmark.