Netflix Just Took A Big First Step Toward Releasing Straightforward Viewership Ratings

Eleven in underground bunker in Stranger Things
(Image credit: Netflix)

Streaming television is insanely popular, and we know that millions of people are watching shows and movies on Netflix, Disney+, and other services every single day. However, actual viewership numbers for Netflix and streaming products have been hard to come by. There has been no real way to know for sure just how many people are watching a new streaming show or movie before, but Netflix just took a big step to change that. The one catch is that this will only be in the UK. 

Netflix has officially joined Barb, the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board in the UK. The group measures audience size for television, and now will be doing the same thing for streaming platforms. This marks the first time that Netflix will see its audience measured by any outside body. Previously, the only time we’ve gotten detailed numbers regarding Netflix viewership numbers has been when Netflix has wanted to tout its success.

And Netflix may only be the first streaming service to join Barb. According to the BBC, any service that “accounts for more than 0.5% of total identified viewing” will see its audience measured by the group, which implies that Disney+ and other popular services will fall under this umbrella as well.

Several organizations, including Nielsen, have done their best to measure streaming audiences up to this point, but it has always been an exercise in taking the best guess based on the provided data. No streaming service releases numbers regularly, and even if they did, there’s no way to know how accurate those numbers would be since they’re all internal.

The reason that Netflix is likely joining Barb now is that Barb numbers are how ad rates are determined and with Netflix on the verge of releasing an ad-supported tier, advertisers are likely to want an independent organization verifying viewers before they shell out whatever money Netflix is looking to make from ad sales. 

It will certainly be interesting to see what Netflix ratings look like when Barb starts reporting on them in November. Traditional broadcast channels will have an idea of how they stack up compared to Netflix, and we’ll be able to get an impression not only of what the best shows on Netflix really are, but what a “bad” streaming show actually looks like. What do people with a Netflix subscription actually watch?

With both Netflix and Disney+ adding ads to their service in multiple markets, it will be interesting to see if that change impacts the streaming platforms domestically as well. So often fans of streaming shows see their favorites canceled with little to no explanation. At least this way we may start to see just what shows people are really watching and which they are not. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.