Netflix remains committed to not releasing data regarding the viewership of its shows “for as long as we can,” chief content officer Ted Sarandos told journalists at the kickoff of the semi-annual TV Critics Assn. press tour Wednesday.
The streaming service has irritated reporters with its unwillingness to issue information regarding the metrics it uses to gauge the success of shows, and Sarandos held to that line, saying, “There’s no real business reason for us to report those numbers.” The executive also took a veiled swipe at Nielsen, suggesting it was better not to make such ratings public than offer potentially inaccurate ones.
Sarandos acknowledged the practice was “a little frustrating” to the business press, and — in somewhat contradictory fashion — said Netflix’s decisions about programs were guided by viewership.
“The shows have got to be watched,” he said.
As for the fact Netflix is essentially asking the media to trust that its programs are popular, Sarandos maintained the cultural footprint of series like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” makes clear that they are having an impact. Journalists have argued that having access to specific viewership information — which pay channels like HBO and Showtime do provide — is helpful in formulating coverage plans.
During the questioning Sarandos largely sidestepped answering questions regarding Netflix’s decision not to offer “The Interview,” the controversial Sony comedy, other than to say that the movie’s success in video on demand “might be eye-opening for the industry.”
In terms of its own approach to movies, which will include a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and several Adam Sandler comedies, Sarandos stressed that the films would be on par with major Hollywood releases, not scaled for TV.
“This is not a TV-movie strategy or an art-house strategy,” he said.
Sarandos also noted that there’s nothing magical about Netflix’s formula for picking shows, which in the case of “House of Cards” was famously drawn in part from user data and preferences; and that the decision on rescuing or reviving canceled series — from “Arrested Development” to “Longmire” — was essentially on a case-by-case basis and particular to each property.
Netflix has renewed the expensive drama “Marco Polo,” with Sarandos telling USA Today that the tepid reception the series received from critics — one of Netflix’s first major setbacks in that regard — didn’t match up with the response from subscribers.
Netflix also announced an April 10 premiere date for “Daredevil,” the first of several series being produced for the company by Marvel.