Why Netflix Still Doesn't Care About Ratings

There's no question that many TV fans are curious about Netflix programming. They wonder how programs are chosen and why the subscription streaming service often chooses to renew the shows. They also wonder about the ratings for each of these shows and how Netflix's offerings compete with the other network and streaming services out there. However, Netflix has been open about never releasing its viewing numbers and this week at the Television Critics Association press tour, CEO Ted Sarandos explained why Netflix doesn't care about the ratings. Here's what he had to say:

The focus of ratings companies has no relevance for us. Subscriber growth, not advertising, drives our revenues.

Basically, what he was saying, via The Wrap, is a bit more about what we already knew about the subscription streaming service. Because subscribers pay monthly for the service and Netflix does not have to rely on advertisements in order to bring in income, Netflix's stock growth is often tied to its subscriber growth. In this model, ratings don't matter. What Netflix is more concerned with is filling niches. The company has superhero shows for people who like superheroes, animated cartoons for families who want to watch kid-friendly TV, and a whole slew of other genres and subgenres to appeal to people's TV wants and needs.

However, we're still obsessed with the idea of finding out how well shows like Daredevil and House of Cards are doing for the streaming service. I think those who want to know just want to gain some sense of how many people are watching the shows they love. Are shows like Orange is the New Black getting Game of Thrones numbers? Or something smaller but well-liked, like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? After all, even if Netflix doesn't rely totally on numbers to decide what stays and goes, if no one is really watching, it's not likely the network is going to devote a ton of its budget to keep a program around. And while Netflix isn't huge on cancelling shows, some programs, like Lilyhammer or Hemlock Grove, have been dropped.

Ted Sarandos also cheekily talked about the other companies out there that have been trying to track Netflix's ratings, with wildly varying results.

Both Nielsen and Symphony 'claim' accuracy.

Two competing groups, Nielsen and Symphony, have been trying to track the numbers that Netflix brings in. However, there have been differences in sample sizes, etc, that have made it tough for the groups to come close in terms of numbers, although those numbers may still help us to gauge which Netflix shows are more popular than others, even if we don't know exactly how many people are watching.

It's actually smart in some ways for Netflix to keep the numbers to themselves. Comparing a Netflix show to a network or cable show would be like comparing apples to oranges, as it's far more important for networks to earn live ratings than it is for Netflix. Due to complex syndication deals, when we talk about ratings for network shows, as well, we are only talking about the US audience for the series, while Netflix is tracking the viewing of its originals all over the world. It's not the same model and it's not the same service, but there are pros and cons to doing the binge-watch model versus have a TV watercooler moment. We'll have to wait and see if both models stick around.

For now, you can check out what Netflix has coming up, here.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.