Netflix Film Chief Scott Stuber Says Streamer Planning to Release More Audience Numbers

Netflix is closer to getting into the numbers game than it’s ever been.

Scott Stuber, the head of original films at Netflix, says the behemoth streaming company — which has famously kept its viewership and box office data hidden from public display — is working on a comprehensive system of making audience metrics for its films more transparent.

While in a conversation with Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller at Variety‘s Innovate Summit presented by PWC in Los Angeles on Thursday, Stuber explained that Netflix is “building towards” releasing more viewership data.

“You’ll see more numbers from us, more transparency, more articulation of what’s working and not,” Stuber says. “Because we recognize it’s important, sometimes to the creative community. It’s important to the press. It’s important to everything. So we were definitely headed in that direction as a company.”

Other Netflix executives — including content chief Ted Sarandos and CEO Reed Hastings — have also said this year that the company is aiming for more transparency with its audience. But on Thursday, Stuber spoke with more detail about the nature of Netflix’s thinking regarding the specific challenges it faces in this arena.

Stuber stresses that since Netflix’s original film operation is still very much in its infancy, the company is working through how best to deliver audience data in a precise and thorough way. He notes that Netflix has been releasing top 10 lists for its U.K. and Mexico markets, and has been releasing select numbers when some films, like “Bird Box” and “Murder Mystery,” hit certain milestones.

But the company’s strategy to release some movies theatrically before they debut on streaming, he says, presents a different kind of hurdle.

In a hypothetical scenario, he says, what if Netflix releases a movie that is projected to open at $15 million, but only opens to $9 million?

“If that asset is perceived as a failure and then four weeks later or five weeks later I put it into an ecosystem where 50 million people watch it, it’s a giant hit for me,” he says. “But now my consumer has been told by you [in the press] that is a failure when that’s not the full business story.”

“We’re not hiding anything,” he adds. “I just want it to be articulated correctly to protect the filmmaker and protect the movie because [box office is] not the whole business for us.”

In a follow-up interview with Variety after his panel at the summit, Stuber says the goal is to be able to release audience data with enough detail to provide the entertainment media proper context for their meaning.

“I just need us to get good at it, so we can be precise,” he says. “Consistency is what you guys want.”

There are, he says, some internal metrics that are unique to streaming platforms that don’t translate to traditional media.

“Like, I know how many people signed up to watch ‘The Irishman,'” he says.

But ultimately, he says, the math is very similar to the TV and film business. “How much did it cost? Did enough people watch it?” he says. “If I make something for $40 million, then X amount of accounts have to watch it. So they better watch.”

And at some point, Netflix will be more comfortable sharing what the “X” stands for.

More Film

  • Zola

    'Zola,' the Stripper Tweetstorm Movie, Premiered to Warm Reception at Sundance

    “Zola,” the A24 movie based on a viral Twitter thread, premiered to laughter and applause on Friday at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is based on a mostly true story tweeted in October 2015 by Aziah Wells King (nickname: Zola, played by Taylour Paige). King recounted, in highly entertaining fashion, her journey from Detroit [...]

  • Alma Har'el with Lucas Hedges and

    DGA Marks Inclusion Milestones on the Eve of Awards Ceremony

    Two months ago, the Directors Guild of America heralded a major milestone in its long push for inclusion in the television industry. The DGA’s episodic television director inclusion report found that half of all TV episodes in the 2018-19 season were directed by women or directors of color for the first time. “Inclusion has been [...]

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg Quibi

    Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman Explain How Quibi Differs From Other Streamers

    Jeffrey Katzenberg has heard the chatter about streaming wars, but the media mogul thinks that when the dust settles, the fight to attract audiences won’t end with just a few victors. “Everybody suddenly wants to declare winners and losers and the fact is there’s only winners and winners right now,” he said during an interview [...]

  • Anaconda

    'Anaconda' Reboot in the Works at Sony With 'Divergent' Writer

    Sony Pictures is in early development of a reboot of the “Anaconda” franchise, hiring “Divergent” writer Evan Daugherty to write the project. The studio has not set up the project with a producer, director or actors. Sony released the original “Anaconda” in 1997 as a horror thriller starring Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric [...]

  • Annabella Sciorra

    Friend Tells of Annabella Sciorra's Mid-1990s Struggles at Harvey Weinstein Trial

    A longtime friend of Annabella Sciorra testified Friday in Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial that the actor turned to cutting herself and exhibited other troubling behavior in the mid-1990s after she was allegedly raped by the disgraced film mogul. The defense questioning of model Kara Young got heated as Judge James Burke sustained repeated objections to [...]


    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' to Lead Weekend With $26 Million

    Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” is dominating North American moviegoing with about $26 million at 2,155 sites, early estimates showed Friday. Universal’s World War I epic “1917” will finish at a distant second with about $13 million in the wake of receiving 10 Academy Award nominations and the top film award from the Producers Guild [...]

  • Bambi

    'Bambi' Is Next Up for Disney Live-Action Remake

    From bears to lions to deer: Disney is developing a live-action remake of its 1942 animated feature “Bambi,” Variety has confirmed. Screenwriters Geneva Robertson-Dworet (“Captain Marvel”) and Lindsey Beer (“Sierra Burgess Is a Loser”) will write the screenplay, with Chris and Paul Weitz’s Depth of Field producing. The film will employ the same photo-realistic CGI used on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content