Netflix’s Ted Sarandos Says Viewership Transparency Will Be ‘Much More Common’ but Offers No Detail

“We’ve gotten to a place where it’s mostly about engagement,” the streamer’s co-CEO says

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Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos predicted transparency regarding streaming viewership data will be “much more common” moving forward, but offered no detail on how the streamer will shift its own viewership model.

“I think we’ve gotten to a place where it’s mostly about engagement, and that does capture the value of watching,” Sarandos said during the company’s third quarter earnings call. “Things will become much more transparent, the way TV has always had ratings and music has always had billboard and theatrical has always had box office, so it’ll be much more common for the data to be fully transparent.”

The Netflix boss added that, at the genesis of streaming 15 years ago, traditional TV ratings and streaming viewership were thought to have an apples-to-oranges comparison, though perspectives on transparency have since shifted.

Since 2020, the streamer has chosen to display its viewership data in several top 10 lists, which rank the most-watched English TV shows, English movies, non-English TV shows and non-English films. While Netflix previously ranked the top TV shows and films based on total hours viewed, the streamer adjusted its metric this June, when it announced it would rank its titles based on total views by dividing a project’s total hours viewed its runtime. 

Why the streamer did not begin publishing its viewership data earlier than 2020, however, is due to a “promise with creators” according to Sarandos.

“At the time we started creating original programming, our creators felt they were pretty trapped in this overnight ratings world and weekend box office world to finding their success and failures,” he said. “As we all know, a show might have enormous success down the road, and it wasn’t captured in that opening box office.”

Sarandos added that holding off on viewership data was partly due to the streamer’s “relationship with talent, not just the business aspects of it.”

“We’re on the continuum today of how much data do we publish,” he continued. “I think we’ve been leading the charge, starting everyone down the path of a top 10, publishing our top 10 list and our annual wrap up list and everything that gives a lot of transparency to the viewing, and I just expect it to be more and more transparent.”

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