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What’s behind Netflix releasing viewing data? Flexing its muscles.

Kristin Schwab Nov 17, 2021
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Netflix's new top 10 site shows that viewers flocked to its original film "Red Notice." Netflix Top 10

What’s behind Netflix releasing viewing data? Flexing its muscles.

Kristin Schwab Nov 17, 2021
Heard on:
Netflix's new top 10 site shows that viewers flocked to its original film "Red Notice." Netflix Top 10
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Netflix has been notoriously quiet about how shows and movies perform on its platform. That ends now … kind of. The streaming service is publishing hours viewed for its 10 most watched shows and movies every week.

So why so secretive until now?

If you grew up in the era of broadcast TV, you’re used to ratings. But the ratings system was created for one big reason that just doesn’t apply to Netflix: “Remember that Netflix doesn’t sell advertising,” said Tim Hanlon at the Vertere Group.

There wasn’t a reason for Netflix to be transparent about its numbers, he said, until those numbers became too good to ignore. The platform has more than 200 million subscribers; Hulu, by comparison, has about 40 million.

And Michael Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, pointed out that many shows and movies on Netflix’s top 10 list are originals.

“For a long time, we looked at them just as a platform, that they’re reliant on the other content creators for their success,” Smith said. “So I think it’s a little bit of flexing.”

This flexing is mostly for viewers — a public relations play that says only Netflix has what you want to watch. It’s also for content creators to show the potential of signing a deal with the platform.

It’s also flexing for other platforms, taunting others to try and keep up.

“It’s going to put pressure on the other streaming platforms to do the same, and Netflix knows that they’re going to look better,” Smith said.

Becoming the first streaming platform to publish this data has other benefits.

“Really it’s a chance for Netflix to set the standards and dialogue before the industry does or their competitors do,” said Paul Erickson, an analyst at Parks Associates.

Eventually, Erickson thinks, Netflix’s rivals will have to show their cards too.

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