Netflix's Nielsen Ratings Do Exist, But Don't Expect To Hear About Them

When it comes to getting info about viewership numbers for network series, you can rarely go wrong with Nielsen, a company where the facts are presented objectively and without a vested interest in skewing things. And it’s not that surprising that Netflix isn’t willing to share numbers with them, especially considering the execs aren’t willing to share numbers with anyone. But don’t count Nielsen out, as the data pusher has ways of finding out how many people have been streaming Netflix shows, though they can’t say too much about it just yet.

Lynda Clarizio, Nielsen’s president of U.S. media, is going to have her work cut out for her when the fall season hits, but that’s something she’s used to at this point. Original streaming series are still a relatively new arena, though, and the biggest service of them all still isn’t openly willing to play ratings ball. Here’s how Clarizio is taking it.

We would love [Netflix] to work with us, but they haven’t deemed that a priority for them. But we have this product called signature-based subscription video on-demand measurement, where a programmer, like a studio, that is licensing their programming to Netflix, can drop an audio-signature file in that program and share that with us, and then we can measure it.

I’m not even sure there is a layman’s term for “signature-based subscription video on-demand measurement.” Still, it’s incredibly interesting to know that our viewing habits can be measured like that, both by an otherwise ignorable digital file and in a way that bypasses Netflix’s intentions of keeping ratings data close to its vest. Considering how gigantic Netflix has gotten in such a short amount of time, it’s always struck me as odd that they’d want to keep that particular aspect of their success under lock and key, rather than showing the numbers off. Even if they’re not as wildly fantastic as ratings were in broadcast networks’ heydays, it shouldn’t matter that much. It’s not like they’ve stopped dumping money into new series.

When TheWrap asked if Clarizio could say how many people are watching Orange is the New Black, here’s how she responded.

I can’t right here and now. And for confidentiality purposes, I can’t say that it’s Orange is the New Black versus another program. But someone asked me whether some of the big programs on Netflix are working with us, and the answer is yes.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that a huge company like Marvel is interested in unveiling how many people are watching Daredevil and its upcoming slate of super-series. But until Netflix hops into the fray and agrees to work with everyone, we’ll just have to settle with celebrating how huge Empire’s ratings are this fall.

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.