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Why Netflix Has ‘No Motivation’ to Release Ratings for ‘House of Cards’

Netflix Chief Creative Officer Ted Sarandos suggested Netflix won't release viewership numbers for some time (if ever)

Netflix has ‘no motivation’ to disclose viewership numbers for its original shows regardless of their success, chief creative officer Ted Sarandos said on Tuesday. Speaking at AllThingsD’s conference in Laguna Beach, Sarandos both mocked Nielsen numbers and insisted that Netflix has no need to toot its own horn.

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“I honestly have no motivation to do it,” Sarandos said of releasing numbers. “I don’t sell ads, so ratings don’t matter in that way.”

The question has surfaced repeatedly since Netflix released “House of Cards,” an expensive and well-received original show created by Beau Willimon and starring Kevin Spacey. While Sarandos said the show has been the most watched show on Netflix in every country where the service is available, he would not go much further.

Entertainment executives are particularly curious about the show’s performance to gauge Netflix’s foray into original programming and to compare its audience to that of shows on regular TV. Netflix will soon release other new series from successful Hollywood talent, including a new season of “Arrested Development.” The show's creator Mitch Hurwitz and cast member Will Arnett joined Sarandos on stage during the session as well.

Sarandos gave several explanations for why Netflix has no reason to get into the numbers game. For one, they don’t sell advertisements against specific shows, so ratings have no impact on their bottom line. They don’t sell their shows to cable operators either, so they don't need ratings to justify charging a certain fee. They make money from subscriptions and ratings have no impact on those numbers.

Netflix customers also watch the shows differently than they do normal television since they can watch them at any time on many devices. Sarandos said comparing Netflix ratings and TV ratings would be like apples and oranges.

When a reporter pressed Sarandos on the issue, he remarked that actors don't believe in Nielsen numbers anyways. Arnett then commented that creative people just want to tell stories and welcome a new way of doing so.

When asked what he does when Spacey calls to ask about numbers, Sarandos replied, "I don't tell him. I just tell him I'm thrilled."