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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

An app generates Netflix viewership ratings… sort of

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

The television industry is obsessed with ratings. And Netflix and Amazon’s streaming services don’t do ratings. Because all viewing on those services is done via an Internet stream, the services themselves know exactly what’s going on, but they hold the information very close to the vest. And it drives everyone else in the industry batty.

So at NBC’s session at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, the network unveiled some research about who’s really watching streaming TV. As reported by Oriana Schwindt in the International Business Times:

Thanks to the research firm Symphony Advanced Media, we finally have some idea of how many people are watching Netflix and Amazon original programming. It’s both less and more than you might think… Symphony measured the average per-episode audience for a set of streaming originals in the 18-49 demographic over the 35 days following each series’ launch.

So much to unpack there. Symphony is measuring viewership in the key 18-49 advertising age group, when Netflix and Amazon don’t rely on advertising or target a specific demographic. Viewing patterns of binge shows are also quite different from those of single-episode-per-week broadcast shows. And of course, Symphony’s results are based on a sample, so we have to accept that their sample group is a good fit for overall viewing habits.

Interestingly, Symphony’s research method is app based. It’s got an app that works somewhat like Shazam, listening to TV audio and automatically recognizing what program is being viewed.

Still! Now we can say that someone claims “Jessica Jones” had 4.8 million 18-49 viewers, “Master of None” 3.9 million, and “Man in the High Castle” 2.1 million. Which are good numbers, but don’t match up to TV’s highest rated shows.

It’s interesting information, but it’s hard to see this as anything but an attempt by NBC to take Netflix and Amazon down a few pegs. I’m not sure it’s going to work.

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