During Thursday’s TCA lunch Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s President of Research and Development, spoke out against industry rumors that video-on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu are siphoning off broadcast viewers. Though streaming services aren’t monitored by Nielsen, and don’t report their viewing numbers, Wurtzel brought proof from a third-party polling company that’s devised a makeshift way to measure how many people are actually viewing on demand.
Wurtzel revealed figures released by Symphony Advanced Media who say they’ve devised a way to measure mobile viewing using audio data. The details are a bit creepy according to tech site Arstechnica: Symphony relies on their Media Insiders app which uses a device’s microphone to identify audio being played and match it to a show. It also records browsing, text, and call history, and tracks location with GPS. For giving up the data users can earn a small monetary reward. The company does not yet have a way to monitor Netflix viewing on televisions.
So what are the results? According to Deadline Symphony monitored 15,000 subscribers over the fall season. The results aren’t exactly a surprise. Jessica Jones attracted 4.8 million views, Master of None 3.9 million, Narcos 3.2 million, Man in the High Castle 2.1 million, and Orange is the New Black just 644,000. Wurtzel asked his audience to compare the numbers to those for The Big Bang Theory or Blindspot, saying that while they are good they pale in comparison to the networks top performers.
Luth Research also tracked viewing last spring, with a smaller sample of 2,500 subscribers. They shared that Daredevil was Netflix’s most watched show at that time, drawing 10.7% of viewers. House of Cards third season drew 6.5% of viewers and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 7.3%. All shows measured have posted their highest viewing in the first month after release.
Netflix has previously explained that they don’t release ratings because, from a business standpoint, they don’t need too. Since they don’t sell ads there is no external party that needs to know their numbers which, Netflix argues, gives them flexibility to provide programs for small-but-dedicated audiences. “To make a baseball analogy, linear TV only scores with home runs,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, speaking at CES. “We score with home runs too, but we also score with singles and doubles and triples.”