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While Netflix is busy building new content, Nielsen has been busy trying to figure out a way to track the content people are watching on the subscription streaming service. In fact, the ratings service recently revealed some new software that will allow Netflix users to drop audio-signature files so that the company can keep track of what Netflix subscribers are watching. This morning, we learned a few more details about how this is going down.
Namely, Nielsen is trying to stick to the same sort of formula the company uses with cable and network programming. 25,000 US households are polled and the audio signature files they send are then scanned by Nielsen in order to determine who is watching what programs. Unfortunately, these numbers still don’t include tablets and phones, which detractors have been critical of. The data also doesn’t tell Nielsen which service a show was on, although since Seinfeld is exclusive to Hulu and other outlets have exclusive shows, that may not be as much of a problem as it seems.
Still, it’s a pretty bizarre and innovative way to be gleaning information from a company that has been notoriously secretive about ratings and how many people are watching their shows. In fact, those involved with House Of Cards, Daredevil and other originals haven’t been told how well they are doing compared to other shows on the subscription streaming service.
Nielsen isn’t the only outlet that has been trying to figure out just how Netflix rates compared to networks. Recently, the Wall Street analyst firm FBR Capital Markets used some moderately complex math to try and figure out how much Netflix is actually being watched by the people who subscribe to it. Obviously, those numbers have some problems just like Nielsen’s numbers have some problems concerning Netflix, but that study did find that the service had a Q1 rating of 2.6, which is near what the big four networks get, especially ABC and NBC.
Subscription streaming services like Netflix, Yahoo and Hulu don’t rely on commercials to raise advertising dollars, so proving ratings is less necessary for these streaming services. However, if Nielsen can eventually find a way to wholly accurately figure out ratings, the Wall Street Journal says it could theoretically have a major effect on how the show is doing with the Wall Street crowd. This could then have an impact on how well Netflix is doing as a whole.
I think for curiosity’s sake, most of us would be interested in knowing how many people are watching Netflix originals. But for now, the streaming service is staying mum. And that’s just how they like it.