Why HBO Max Probably Won't Reveal Ratings Stats Even As Netflix Changes Tracking Methods

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(Image credit: HBO Max)

As weird a declaration as this would have been to make a year ago, it's pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that the massive global success of the killer thriller Squid Game has upended the world of streaming programming. It's the biggest Netflix premiere of all time (and could stay that way for years), and that success has convinced the powers that be to change up how the company measures viewership in regards to its Top 10 listings. But for all that Netflix is leaning harder into transparency, audiences probably shouldn't expect to see HBO Max following suit.

HBO Max's Executive Vice President and general manager Andy Forssell and other execs spoke to press this week (via THR) and gave updates for the streaming company's strategies looking ahead to 2022 and beyond. But those plans do not currently include "sharing ratings stats," as Forssell said this about HBO Max's situation:

I wouldn’t expect to put those numbers out. I’m not surprised to see Netflix do it. I wouldn’t expect us, or other players, to put numbers out just because it’s really hard to understand apples-to-apples comparisons. So we labor over it. We know exactly how well these shows are doing, we pay attention to the numbers Netflix puts out because that’s the scoreboard for us to matter in that.

It can be assumed that Andy Forssell's lack of surprise over Netflix's reports is influenced by Netflix obviously being the biggest streaming service out there. It's a lot easier to talk about one's success when it's clear that no one else is coming close. The number of subscribers that tuned into part of Squid Game in its first month of release — a whopping 142 million — is more than three times the size of HBO Max's entire subscriber base, which is currently around 45.2 million. Definitely nothing to scoff at, but obviously not a total that can provide comparative viewership numbers. Even Amazon's Jeff Bezos was impressed by Squid Game's rousing success.

Which speaks to the apples-to-apples comparison that Andy Forssell mentioned. If they release a hypothetical stat that says Titans or The Flight Attendant was watched by an average of 10 million people or so, that would be a pretty impressive total when compared to how certain shows are doing on broadcast TV. But it would look dwarfed by the numbers that Netflix releases, which likely makes other streaming service execs iffy about going public. 

Of course, many have also criticized Netflix for putting out viewership totals only for its most popular series, while very rarely sharing stats for shows that aren't crushing the world over. One can assume shows like Nailed It! are doing well enough to justify continuous new seasons and spinoffs, but always without hard numbers to back up those assumptions. Perhaps if Netflix did unveil exactly how ALL of its shows are doing, HBO Max and other streaming services might not be so wary to share their own. 

That said, you just know HBO and HBO Max are going to holler from the rooftops about the number of people who will eventually tune in for the Game of Thrones follow-up prequel House of the Dragon. That's just a given. Just don't expect to hear how many people have finished all two seasons of The Other Two.

Check out everything coming to Netflix in November, as well as what's handy to watch on HBO Max for Halloween frights.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.