Netflix thinks ratings are bad for television shows, and are a negative force on the talent that produces them.
Last week, executives from the likes of NBC and FX traded barbs with Netflix over ratings transparency.
FX CEO John Landgraf said it’s “ridiculous that we don’t have usage numbers on Netflix,” while NBC’s Alan Wurtzel cited data from an outside research company that Netflix’s ratings weren’t all that impressive.
Netflix fired back, not just at NBC’s data, which content chief Ted Sarandos called “remarkably inaccurate,” but at the very idea of ratings.
Netflix has always closely guarded its viewership data, so much so that many of its creators don’t even know how well their shows are doing. Tina Fey, who was the co-creator of the Netflix show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” said she had no idea how many people were watching the show, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Now Netflix is saying this type of secrecy is actually good for shows. Sarandos said that instant ratings data turns TV into a weekly arms race between networks, and puts “a lot of creative pressure on talent,” Variety reports.
He asserted that the focus on ratings “has been remarkably negative in terms of its effect on shows.”
While Sarandos’ premise makes sense, it’s also self-serving for Netflix to take this position. The fact that Netflix doesn’t rely on advertisers, and has historically released its shows in batches, means that it has little incentive to release its show data. This also makes Netflix’s way of doing business seem friendlier to artists.
Sarandos also said Netflix would spend around $6 billion on content this year, according to Variety.