TV Ratings: Amazon’s ‘Transparent’ Lags Behind Netflix, Hulu Shows (EXCLUSIVE)

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

With its Emmys, critical acclaim and role in making transgender rights a mainstream social issue, “Transparent” is by all accounts a hit — the standard-bearer for Amazon Studios’ original-series efforts. But Amazon, like competitors Netflix and Hulu, doesn’t release viewership information. So what’s been unknown since “Transparent” premiered in 2014 is whether the show is also a hit in the most fundamental sense — how many people watch.

It’s not.

In ratings provided exclusively to Variety by the measurement company Symphony Advanced Media, “Transparent” falls short of other original streaming series on Netflix and Hulu, and even some of its fellow Amazon shows.

Looking at Sept. 21 to May 2 — roughly the same period as the broadcast TV season — Symphony measured viewership of Amazon, Hulu and Netflix originals within 35 days of their premieres. “Transparent” season two averaged a 0.68 rating among adults 18-49 and 1.49 million total adult viewers.

That places “Transparent” on a much different, much lower plane than the one occupied by that highest-rated streaming series that Symphony measured: Netflix’s “Fuller House.” The ’90s sitcom revival averaged an 11.31 demo rating and 21.51 million total adults.

Among the other half-hour streaming originals that out-rated “Transparent” were Netflix’s “The Ranch” (4.34, 9.54 million); “F is for Family” (3.47, 7.01 million); “Master of None” (3.28, 5.85 million); “Love” (2.18, 4.09 million); “Flaked” (0.97, 2.07 million); and “With Bob & David” (1.04, 1.98 million); as well as Hulu’s “The Mindy Project (0.88, 1.63 million).


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“Transparent” was also outperformed by Amazon’s highest rated original series, “The Man in the High Castle,” which averaged a 1.42 demo rating and 3.44 million total adults.

More surprising, “Transparent” barely edges out fellow Amazon half-hour “Catastrophe” (0.44, 1.27 million) in live-plus-35. When the measurement window is shortened, “Catastrophe” comes out ahead in total adult viewers. Within seven days of premiere — live-plus-seven, which Nielsen now treats as the standard for television-series measurement — “Catastrophe” averaged 755,000 total adults compared to 612,000 for “Transparent.” (Symphony did not measure Amazon’s other half-hour series, “Red Oaks” and “Mozart in the Jungle.”)

Using live-plus-seven, “Transparent” also comes up short against the top half-hour series on HBO. In Nielsen’s total-viewer counts, “Girls” (1.31 million), “Silicon Valley” (2.42 million) and “Veep” (1.53 million) yield audiences several times greater than those of “Transparent” — and that’s without including digital viewing from HBO Now and HBO Go.

An Amazon Studios spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Most of the highest rated series that Symphony measures originated on Netflix, including “Making a Murderer” (9.65 demo rating and 19.35 million total adults in live-plus-35); “Daredevil” (6.03, 11.65 million); “Jessica Jones” (4.52, 9.30 million); and “House of Cards” (4.10, 9.05 million). That makes sense, given Netflix’s customer base. The service boasts 46 million U.S. subscribers compared to Hulu’s 12 million. Amazon doesn’t release subscription numbers for its Prime service. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated last year that Amazon has 54 million Prime subscribers, but it’s unknown how many of those access original series, which serve as a supplement to the service’s principal function, providing free two-day shipping to shoppers.

But Hulu miniseries “11.22.63” does approach Netflix levels with a 2.53 demo rating and 5.31 million total adults. “The Path” (0.99, 2.05 million) also performed respectably — although live-plus-35 ratings for the most recent installments of it and “The Mindy Project,” both of which release episodes on a weekly basis, are not yet available.

And while most streaming series demonstrate similar growth to one another when moving from seven days to 35, two shows diverge from the norm. One is Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.” The documentary series grew total adult viewership 511% from live-plus-seven to live-plus-35. “Fuller House,” by comparison, grew only 59%.

That growth indicates that “Making a Murderer” benefited from strong word-of-mouth. The same may be true for “The Ranch.” The Netflix multi-camera comedy starring Ashton Kutcher grew 253% from live-plus-seven to the wider window — which for it was 32 days, due to the cut off date.

Symphony began in September tracking digital and television ratings. The company gathers data for its ratings through audio code recognition software that passively measures the viewing habits of a panel of more than 15,000 people.

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  1. Dietmar Kuhl says:

    I am a German viewer – and for me it is likely clear. We do have similar circumstances with Germen TV shows, too. Highly critics appreciated and awarded shows aren´t always a viewer success in total of viewers. Mostly, these shows are “special” and not for all the public. Marvel comics are much easier to view as “Transparent” is. Only looking on the number of views might lead to wrong value.

  2. nerdrage says:

    It’s fun trying to ferret out streaming service stats, so don’t stop or anything but…you can’t really talk about the “demo” for ad-free platforms. What really matters is who is the subscriber (usually a grownup) and who is the subscription for (could be a kid).

    Also relevant, something even harder to find, namely: does this or that show reduce churn/attract new subscribers? This could be determined by looking at what people do after/during watching a given series – does watching a certain series make them less likely to leave vs. the average churn rate? When someone subscribes, is it the first thing they seek out? That could indicate they subscribed for that show/movie.

    I’m sure there are many other ways to slice & dice the numbers, and only Netflix & Amazon would know such detail. And for Amazon only, there’s another key stat: do people watch a certain show/movie and then go on to buy stuff off Amazon? This is especially important if they are new subscribers – if Transparent is bringing in new eyeballs who then go on to spend actual money at Amazon, that could make those paltry numbers a whole lot more valuable. There are probably video-only types of subscribers and video/buy stuff types. The latter could be a lot more valuable than the former.

    And limiting the discussion to domestic audiences really makes no sense. Money is money, regardless of the age or nationality of the subscriber and should be treated equally if the revenues are equal.

  3. Wellesley72 says:

    Who cares? Amazon Prime, like Netflix, is a subscription service that doesn’t rely on ratings. With around 56 million subscribers, Prime can easily stream programming that appeals to niche audiences. The fact that it doesn’t get the ratings that other streaming shows or programs on cable TVs is irrelevant. It’s a well-acted, thoughtful show, which is more than you can say about 99% of TV content which cannot afford to appeal to niche audiences because they rely on advertising revenue.

    • Allee says:

      Well, yes and no. If people love a show, or all their friends are talking about it, they might subscribe to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon in order to see the show. That’s what Hulu was hoping for when it acquired The Mindy Project away from Fox and what Netflix hopes for when it releases new programming or gives new life to shows like Full House or The Gilmore Girls that have a built-in following. Amazon Prime does have the advantage of being tied to other features of the Amazon Prime program like free shipping. But that makes it even a little sadder if no one is watching their shows when they already have Amazon Prime for other things.

      • Wellesley72 says:

        My sense is that Prime and Netflix know exactly who is watching one of their original series. Why does it really matter who else knows the numbers? I’m not in the 18-49 “sweet spot” for TV demographics so I expect that most shows aren’t being crafted to appeal to me. Tina Fey notably commented on her experience with Netflix (Kimmy Schmidt) by saying how relieved she was that she had no idea how large her audience was and compared it to her time with NBC on 30 Rock where everyone in the writers’ room got incredibly depressed once a week when ratings came out and 30 Rock was at or near the bottom. I don’t think the fact that Transparent has a lower 18 to 49 score and overall lower viewers during the first 35 days affects its critical acclaim or its buzz worthiness. In fact, Transparent’s awards are what got Amazon Prime’s originals on the map. Until Transparent came along, you might have never have thought that Amazon had any originals. While Transparent might not be someone’s cup of tea (personally, I thought the second season was an overlong dose of narcissism in a dysfunctional family), it probably got people looking at other Prime originals.

        One takeaway from the survey that I found inapplicable to streaming services was an arbitrary cutoff of 35 days from the initial release. I don’t want to have to watch a program as soon as it comes out or even within 30 days. I can see the importance of Live+7 (or Live plus 15) for advertisers of a broadcast show. Usually during the Live + 7 period, if you watch a show on demand, you are probably watching the same advertisements. After that time, the commercials tend to be what the cable system inserts. Also On Demand viewing only shows the five most recent episodes. So what does Live+35 mean? I may watch Transparent or House of Cards in the first month a new season comes out but hold off watching Bosch or Bloodline for a couple of months. The fact that I don’t watch a show in its first month does not make the streaming service less valuable to me (particularly since these originals are going to be around for at least 10 years), but no one is monitoring that important distinction between a TV broadcaster (where the episodes are available for a limited time) and a streaming service where episodes are available for a much shorter time.

        Again, I am not sure what the ratings of streaming shows is meant to accomplish other than perhaps to boost the egos of those TV networks (like FX or NBC) who can point to the ratings (which may or may not be accurate; I I have still not heard a good explanation of how one measures audiences for a streaming show). Regardless, to say a show is better” because it is watched by more people overall or by people in the “magic” 18-49 demographics is ridulous. Just because more people watch a particular TV show doesn’t necessarily make it better than a show with lower ratings; it just makes it more attractive to advertisers. However, since streaming services don’t rely on ads, what benefit do ratings provide, particularly if the streaming service has its own numbers to gauge whether they think a show is successful.

        Finally, with Netflix in particular, do you have to do a global survey of their originals to get a full picture of a show’s popularity? Do we know how many people outside the US watch Narcos or Marseilles? How do you measure Live + 35 if shows start on different dates in different countries?

  4. eddie willers says:

    This will surprise no one. (except a few liberals)

  5. lindsey says:

    Get ready to be added to Jill Soloway’s list of people to murder

  6. Nanny Mo says:

    Well, you can only feel bad for him/her/it so long and then you say, either embrace yourself or don’t. And after you’ve been there, cut that, there’s nothing left to see. Also, he’s a very ugly woman, so it’s less hard on the boys, and an “I don’t think so” for the girls. While the acting works, the visuals, not so much. It’s turning into a been there, done that. I know I’ve stopped watching after the yuck, ooo, oh my, factor wore off.

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