Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Blasts Secret Ratings Reveal: ‘Remarkably Inaccurate Data’

TCA 2016: “I hope no one’s paying for it,” chief content officer says of now-public Symphony Advanced Media numbers

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos spent a little time Sunday morning ripping the supposed reveal of his streaming company’s secret and previously proprietary ratings data.

NBC research guru Alan Wurtzel had shared some unimpressive apparent Netflix viewership figures on Wednesday, which were cobbled together by San Francisco measurement company Symphony Advanced Media — a cross-platform data analysis firm that essentially utilizes a user’s cell phone microphone to identity and track audio codes embedded in all TV programming. Sarandos doesn’t quite subscribe to that methodology, nor does he understand why NBC would even care to share.

“There’s a couple of mysteries in play for me,” he said during a TCA panel. “One is, why would NBC use their lunch slot with you guys to talk about our ratings? Maybe it’s because it’s more fun than talking about NBC ratings.”

To be fair to NBC, the broadcast network has been No. 1 for a few years running. By “you guys,” Sarandos was referring to the ballroom of TV critics and entertainment journalists hanging on his every word.

“The second is, the methodology and the measurement and the data itself doesn’t reflect any sense of reality of anything that we keep track of,” he continued.

Sarandos then went so far as to call the SymphonyAM data “really remarkably inaccurate data,” adding: “I hope no one’s paying for it.”

Both Wurtzel’s and Sarandos’ comments took place during the twice-yearly Television Critics Association press junket. During its lunchtime panel last week, NBC endorsed Symphony as a potential Nielsen alternative, also specifying comScore/Rentrak and TiVo/RealityMine as options to replace the current TV ratings currency.

TheWrap interviewed SymphonyAM CEO Charlie Buchwalter a day later; read more about his company and its methods here.

During his weekend turn to respond, Sarandos said that broadcast TV’s advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic — or any demo, really — is meaningless to a company that doesn’t have ads, like his.

Demo viewing “is so insignificant to us that I can’t even tell you how many 18-49 year-old members that we have … it means nothing to Netflix,” the executive told reporters in attendance.

Later during his Langham Huntington stage time, TheWrap asked Sarandos if the content chief still stands by a previous claim he made, essentially calling “Orange Is the New Black” the biggest show across all of television — and yes, that would include the massive “Empire” and “Walking Dead.”

“There’s not an apples-and-apples comparison to Netflix watching and any reported Nielsen rating,” Sarandos told us. “Cumulatively, it definitely — it depends on how you want to slice the pie — there’s certainly a measurement that would put [‘OITNB’] there.”