NBC Is So Scared of Netflix & Amazon They Hired Someone to Pull Their Secret Ratings


Well this is a new one.

Netflix is known for keeping it’s ratings a secret. That’s an annoyance to some traditional networks who would really, really, really, really, really like to know what they are. Apparently NBC decided to do a little digging.

Variety reports:

NBCUniversal’s head of research had a surprise for reporters Wednesday during a presentation on the challenges of measuring TV viewing: ratings estimates for a handful of Netflix series and Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle.”

Alan Wurtzel, NBCU president of research and media development, presented ratings estimates for a handful of SVOD shows in an effort to give reporters a sense of the audience that Netflix and Amazon draw. He urged reporters to put the impact of SVOD competition in “perspective” when writing about how new digital platforms are hurting the traditional TV business, broadcast networks in particular.

Huh. So how did they get the numbers? Have they had a super secret spy working for both companies the last few years? No, they hired “tech firm Symphony, which measures TV viewing using audio content recognition technology — software loaded on to users phones that tracks viewership by capturing the soundtrack of the program. The company has a sample size of about 15,000 at present, Wurtzel said.”

Not quite Nielsen of course but let’s see what they revealed in this super weird presentation he called “Netflix Reality Check” that does not at all make them look really desperate. Variety writes:

From September through December, the average episode of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” averaged 4.8 million viewers during a 35-day viewing cycle, according to Wurtzel’s presentation. Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” (produced by Universal TV) grabbed 3.9 million while “Narcos” grabbed 3.2 million during the same frame. Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle,” a show that Amazon has identified as its highest-rated original series, averaged 2.1 million.

For perspective, one of NBC’s new shows, Blindspot, has been averaging around 8-9 million viewers while an older series like Grimm gets 3.7 million.

“The notion that they are replacing broadcast TV may not be quite accurate,” said Wurtzel, who seemed really happy with the results. ““I think we need a little bit of perspective when we talk about the impact of Netflix and SVOD (outlets).” When reached for comment* Netflix had this to say:


*just kidding, Entertainment Weekly said they had no immediate comment

[UPDATE] Looked into Symphony a bit more and found this info about the technology they seem to be using called VideoPulse:

At a time when advertisers are seeking to reach consumers via the continuously fragmenting TV ecosystem, Symphony Advanced Media has today announced the launch of VideoPulse™, the first single source TV multi-platform measurement service for advertisers, agencies and media companies. VideoPulse captures and provides in-depth insights into consumer media usage in real-time from over-the-top (OTT), video-on-demand (VOD), digital video audiences (Web, app, and gaming devices), DVR and linear TV.

Available immediately, VideoPulse is already undergoing beta testing by NBC, Viacom, Warner Bros. Media Research & Insights and A+E Networks.

Mashable reported on it last year writing, “Users that opt in will be paid between $5 to $11 a month and can expect just about anything they watch to be tracked, along with other data including their location. That sounds like a privacy nightmare, but [Charles Buchwalter, CEO of Symphony Advanced Media] told Mashable that the company is not collecting any personally identifiable information in the data and that the only information shared with its clients is aggregated into demographic groups. Users are allowed to opt out at any time.”

4 Responses to “NBC Is So Scared of Netflix & Amazon They Hired Someone to Pull Their Secret Ratings”

  1. They Call Me The Fizz says:

    So NBC would rather invade streamers’ privacy than embrace new tech…

  2. Simkl says:

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