‘Jessica Jones,’ ‘Narcos,’ ‘Master of None’ Viewership Revealed as NBC Exec Asks For Netflix ‘Perspective’

'Jessica Jones' Ratings Revealed as NBC
Courtesy of Netflix

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.

Wurtzel cited ratings derived from San Francisco-based 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.

From September through December, the average episode of Netflix’s “Jessica Jones” averaged 4.8 million viewers in adults 18-49 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.

During the September-December period, Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” averaged 644,000 viewers. That reflected the fact that the show’s most recent third season launched in June. “OITNB” has been tabbed by Netflix as its most-watched original series.

Wurtzel shared the Symphony ratings estimates as part of what he called a “Netflix Reality Check.” He said the goal was not to get down the decimal point of viewership for Netflix series but to give a general sense of the size of the audience for Netflix’s buzzy originals. The streaming giant does not disclose specific viewing figures for its shows, which goes against convention in the TV biz where ratings info for most networks is widely available.

“The notion that they are replacing broadcast TV may not be quite accurate,” he said.

Symphony also tracked data regarding the percentage of viewing that Netflix subscribers spent on selected Netflix series versus linear TV options, as an effort to show how viewing spikes around the delivery of new seasons.

In the first two weeks after “OITNB’s” most recent season bowed in June, Netflix users spent 23%-25% of their TV watching time on the show. After that, the share of linear TV viewing for those viewers returned to the typical levels of 91%-97% of total viewing time. Wurtzel said Symphony data confirmed that “OITNB” ranks as Netflix’s “biggest show by far.”

The share of viewing pattern was similar for “Narcos” and “Master of None” during each show’s first week of availability on Netflix. “Narcos” had a 17% share of viewing in week one while “Master of None” grabbed 11% share of viewing, according to Symphony. The levels tapered off significantly after the first two weeks of availability.

Wurtzel said the volume and cyclical nature of Netflix viewing is important to consider amid the conventional wisdom that Netflix is grabbing market share from linear networks.

“I think we need a little bit of perspective when we talk about the impact of Netflix and SVOD (outlets),” Wurtzel said.

Wurtzel’s presentation wasn’t all about countering the Netflix effect. He ran through the network’s efforts to get a more accurate picture of viewership across multiple platforms and the limitations of the current Nielsen system. He said there was “a glimmer of hope” on the horizon with a new Nielsen service that promises to do a better job of measuring non-linear platforms.

Among the intriguing stats Wurtzel shared:

  • Nielsen at present measures 1,231 TV channels. The average TV household receives 201 channels but only watches 16 regularly. In 2008, the average household received 129 channels and watched 17 regularly. That tells him that most viewers “engage in a manageable amount of viewing.” But for programmers, “the challenge is that everybody’s menu (of favored channels) is very different.”
  • Time-shifting is the new majority. In 2008, 81% of TV viewing was done live. This season, live viewing has dropped to 51%. Another 26% of viewing is done within the first three days of a program’s debut.
  • Viewers who watch shows late in the 35-day measurement cycle tend to be younger and richer. Using NBC’s “Blindspot” as an example, Wurtzel noted that the median age for live plus 3 viewing was 52 with a median income of $74,000. In live plus 7, the median age was 46 while income was up “a tick.” Toward the end of the 35-day frame the median age was 43 and median income shot up to $91,000.
  • Digital availability has helped bring down the median age of the long-running “Law & Order: SVU,” which has a lower median age when digital viewing is factored in. The show at present has the best 18-24 demo ratings in its history.

(Pictured: “Jessica Jones”)

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  1. HARRY MOORE says:

    i’m leaving cable and keeping netflix and hulu. 20 minutes of ads every hour makes for unbearable viewing i pay the cable company who pays the networks etc and still we have to watch unlimited commercials. 1963 had 7 minutes of ads on average each hour. pretty soon they will have 40 minutes of ads for every hour. the cable networks are going to kill themselves in quest of more profits.

  2. just for my two cents…….jesica jones, watched it ONE episode AFTER ANOTHER till it ended the next day. sorry i didn’t have more episodes……..bring on series two!

  3. Nielsen does not state that Live TV is down to 51% of viewing where DVR’s are the other half. Nielsen states that LiveTV is down to 51% of ALL media consumption including gaming, internet on a PC or Phone, Tablets, AM/FM Radio, Streaming, DVD’s, and any other multimedia device.

    Look at NielsenTotal Audience Report Q3 2105.

  4. Moobel Orckes says:

    Jessica Jones Season Two, please.

  5. Gerome says:

    How will tracking cell phone activity from PAID participants represent the viewing statistics of any given population? Symphony must have sold NBC a bill of goods. Data although in it’s pure form is wonderful, it can be manipulated to say whatever it wants the owner of said data say. This is more of a “Linear TV subscribers, don’t worry. Keep paying the exorbitant fee. Streaming is a just a fad”

  6. crcomics says:

    They are trying to use an old and outdated model to measure how and what people are watching, to prove that their old and outdated model works. You can’t get accurate data when you are looking at the wrong information. Clinging to the old models is the entire reason they are struggling to keep their numbers up in the first place.

    Broadcast TV isn’t dead, but the ones that want to get the numbers need to stop looking at their streaming business lines as novelties on the side.
    5 years ago they were too busy saying “Nobody wants to watch TV on their computer” instead of getting on board and now they are behind the curve, and they still don’t seem to get it. The only time “live” TV is on at our house is for background noise. When we actually want to sit down and watch something, it is streaming or on DVR. People are basing their own schedule around when networks say it’s time to watch less and less because they no longer have to and there is no sign of that trend slowing as the technology becomes cheaper and more widely available.

  7. Theik says:

    This research is hilariously bad.

    You can’t tap 150k phones and extrapolate from that how many people in the entirety of the US watch certain shows. I have never once watched a single show on my phone, because a phone is not a good viewing medium for movies. That’s what laptops and PCs are for, where you can have a far better view of what’s going on.

    This seems a lot like a rediculous attempt by a quickly vanishing media to stay relevant by going “See, I told you, they’re not doing great either!”. Maybe, just maybe, you would be better served by trying to improve your own business than trying to trashtalk your competition based on pointless and irrelevant studies.

    • Jeff says:

      Hate to tell you but they are using your phone to listen to everything around it, not what is coming out of its own speakers.

  8. Dansk Tex says:

    I don’t see how tracking PHONES gives enough information to judge over-all viewership. I would guess that many more people watch these shows on their TVs via apps on the TV or with a box such as Roku. This seems like a story written by someone who is hurting and trying to convince others not to leave their channel by downplaying how many others have already left.

    • Kela Ravenwood says:

      They are NOT tracking what you DO on your PHONE. They are having your phone keep its Microphone on at all times and tracking what your phone HEARS. So if your phone hears you watching a Netflix show on your PC then it counts it. If it picks up the Audio from a Football game while your at a Sports Bar it tracks it. If your in the Lobby of a hotel and close enough to the TV there it will track you “watching” CNN or the other “news” channel that is on.

  9. Solomon Lee says:

    So aomeone is planting software on my device and listening to what I am watching? Does no one else think this is wrong?

    • Kela Ravenwood says:

      They are not tracking what your phone displays they are tracking what it hears.

      • Kela Ravenwood says:

        oops wrong post to reply to.

        However they are not “Planting” Software on your phone. They are having random people who agreed to allow their phone to be tapped download the app that does the tapping.

    • Yes I do. But it’s nothing new. They use the same shit the NSA uses to spy on you. Your “smart phone” is a digital fingerprint that can track where you are what you are listening to and even what your camera can see. Even if you turn it off.

  10. nerdrage says:

    Are those US figures only? If so, that misses the point that Netflix is delivering niche programming, but efficiently, across a global audience. There’s a fan base for Jessica Jones in America. There’s also a fan base in every nation on Earth. Netflix reaches them efficiently, without a cobweb of distributors that siphon off money. Then they plow the profits back into more niche programming.

    Amazon is a different story. I think they are largely interested in attracting eyeballs to their real business of selling and shipping goods. If The Man in the High Castle attracted 2M NEW customers – who stuck around and bought Xmas gifts off Amazon – then that’s entirely different than if it was 2M people who already had Amazon Prime. And that’s something only Amazon knows. But they renewed the show, so they don’t seem unhappy.

    Broadcast needs to understand that streaming is fundamentally a different business model. And Amazon is REALLY different.

    • You do know that Netflix carries different shows in different regions, yes? Like Netflix Canada is different than Netflix U.S. or god help us Netflix Australia.

      • uhhh no says:

        Jessica Jones is their show – as far as I know, they didn’t license it out to anyone else as a foreign distributor like they did House of Cards. They tend to feature their shows globally, unlike the ones they need to license out or which already have dist. deals with other broadcasters internationally

  11. TM says:

    The tracking by phone seems creepy. I assume they do not mean the netflix app – but another app. And probably I’m not aware of that I’m being tracked.

    If your business plan is based on ratings than this matters. If your business plan is based on subscriptions, than it matters only if you have enough subscriptions to be profitable. Of course, ratings will tell you if your subscribers are staying – but they are not as important. See hbo and other premium channels.

    • Kela Ravenwood says:

      Its only creepy if you didn’t approve of them doing it. These rating systems always use people who they contacted first and pay them to keep the app running on their phone.

      That said just like HBO and other Premium channels the number of viewers is meaningless. It is how many new Subscribers did the show pull in, and how many people retained their subscription because of the show and only Netflix has that info.

    • nerdrage says:

      Bingo. Only Netflix can see if adding Jessica Jones to the lineup improved their churn rate. That’s the real story. And for Amazon, it’s not just that. It’s how many people sampled The Man in the High Castle and then went on to buy something with their brand new Prime membership. NBC can’t track the real stats that matter to streaming services. They still think this has something to do with ads, poor dears.

  12. Wellesley72 says:

    Good to see that the average viewer watches 16 channels, down from 17 in 2008. Presumably, the “lost” channel is NBC. Also, what are the numbers on Kimmy Schmidt? And how do you extrapolate from 15000 people to 4.8 million? 15,000 sounds like a small sample.

    • ss22703 says:

      Agreed. Is it just me or does this seem like “old man yelling at cloud” level of ridiculous. Old media company can’t handle how it is becoming irrelevant and is looking all kinds of pissy.

  13. Kay says:

    Boo to NBC for doing that. It’s is petty, and kind of creepy that you’re more obsessed with their platform and programming instead of trying to improve your own. How about stop canceling everything decent, and then people will watch your network again. I’ve watched every Netflix show sans Narcos (I just found it too gory) but I haven’t watched an NBC show since Parks & Rec wrapped up.

    • nerdrage says:

      Same here. I watch tons of stuff on Netflix (Making a Murderer is my latest obsession). I couldn’t even tell you what’s on NBC. Who cares?

      • name99 says:

        So we have on the one hand anecdotal evidence of a few individuals claiming “I don’t watch NBC”; and on the other hand, genuine data as to how many people seem to watch broadcast alternatives.
        I wonder which I should believe…

  14. Lauren says:

    “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… ‘The notion that they are replacing broadcast TV may not be quite accurate'”

    Wait. Let’s say episode 2 of Jessica Jones gets 4.8 million viewers in September. If they are still averaging that in October, wouldn’t that mean a new wave of people are watching it either again or for the first time? If over a 4 month span, all episodes averaged out to nearly 5 million people, but the whole season is released at once, it seems like that means people are constantly trickling in to watch. So it would be more like 15 million total viewers in a 105 day span? Compare that to the 9 million Blindspot or The Voice get. That is week to week, so it’s probably the same core group that follows the show.

    Also – this says “tracking phones”, but Netflix itself admits their phone app is one of the least utilized of their streaming methods. The TV streaming and laptop devices are far higher in usage than the phone, although they are gaining viewership there. So… if this is how many people are just watching on the phone, how can you possible use this as evidence unless you only compare it to NBCU’s phone habits?

    Finally, even if it was as dry as they are presenting it, still pretty damning that a newer service is already halfway to NBC’s top hits. Maybe instead of trying to demonize Netflix/Amazon/etc, the cable networks could make digital streaming methods with halfway decent UX and people would watch the shows.

    • Kela Ravenwood says:

      The average number of Views is not an how many per month on average. It is the Total number of Views in a given time period averaged over the number of episodes on offer. So basically if everyone who watched Jessica Jones binged watched every episode on October 1st and no one watched it again then 4.8 Million people watched all 13 episodes on October 1st. If half of them waited for reviews then 2.4 watched it on Oct 1 and the rest at some point latter in the period. In other words the 4.8 mill IS the total for the time span on offer. That said number of views is unimportant to a subscription based service, it is subscription retention and new subscriptions that they care about.

      As far as the “tracking phones” thing goes, you misunderstand what they are doing they are placing an app on “volunteers” phones and that app uses the microphone on said phone to listen to everything around it and then tries to determine what shows the “volunteer” is watching biased on what it hears. I put volunteer in quotes because the people that do that are paid, though it is a very small amount of money.

      BTW, it also tracks when the NBC or other Broadcast TV shows are streamed but it doesn’t KNOW if they are streamed, just that they are time shifted, and since much of NBC’s content is on Hulu some of their numbers likely come from their as well as pirated torrents and the like.

    • nerdrage says:

      Yeah these stats smell funny. Also, is this domestic viewing only? Netflix is adding subscribers overseas faster now. They don’t think of themselves as just making TV for Americans. Only broadcast is so blinkered anymore. Netflix has changed the game and broadcast still can’t figure out the rules.

  15. david k says:

    This is like when the head of FX bemoaned “too much tv” Bitterness & sour grapes-in NBC’s case lack of ratings, awards & buzz, in FX’s case-lack of award noms

  16. Jacques Strappe says:

    Average viewing per episode? Jessica Jones has 13 episodes. Something doesn’t really add up with NBC’s intended slam of Netflix viewing. Sounds like a twisted interpretation of questionable statistics from the get go. This reminds me of that computer programming expression: “Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, NBC’s sour grapes science is entirely bogus.

    • Bill Cunningham says:

      I also have to ask how NBC can think they can “get away with” slapping SVOD services like Netflix and Amazon when it is part owners of Hulu.

  17. Don Benn says:

    I’m old (64) and I know I don’t fit the demographic (s) that get measured. My wife is not quite as you-know-what as me so she doesn’t count either. But we watch all of these shows…and a good number of other Aamazon and Netflix original series….and while I don’t have one iota of scientific evidence to back up my claim….I bet there’s substantial numbers of unmeasured viewers in mine and every age group who read articles like this and (I’ll be nice)….”question the results”.

  18. Bill Cunningham says:

    But Netflix and Amazon are operating on a business model that is akin to HBO – a subscriber model – than it is a network broadcast model. So how many subscribers did Amazon and Netflix add in those time periods? How many ads were shown to viewers as they logged in – and then enjoyed uninterrupted viewing? How may hours of the day were taken up with people watching? How many people bought something on Amazon right after they watched a show?

  19. lindsey says:

    doesn’t say what kind of average. my guess is a show like MoN gets sampled by maybe 7 million and the final episode viewings represent core fans that finished the series, maybe a million or less? 3m avg is apples to oranges comparison to broadcast.

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