After years of keeping data under lock and key, streamers have become a little more open about sharing songs publicly in the past two years. Netflix’s Ted Sarandos says he expects this trend to continue – and also defended the previous practice as part of a “promise” to the company’s creative partners.
“We’re heading into a world where streaming data will be more available,” Netflix’s co-CEO said Wednesday during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. “It will be much more transparent.”
Although most viewing data on streaming series and films is still unavailable, Netflix publishes a weekly top 10 list of the best-performing series and films. Nielsen has been publishing the US top 10 lists for three years, and Disney+ has also recently started touting some of its successes.
The recently won contract from the Writers Guild of America also embeds some data transparency into the agreement, using the increasingly standard definition of a “view” (the total number of hours watched divided by the running time of a movie or season of a series) to help determine a new success-based residual. Data transparency also remains a sticking point between media companies and high profile actors, with SAG-AFTRA calling for some form of revenue sharing.
Sarandos also defended Netflix’s previous reluctance to share viewing data, saying the company initially believed its data was “apples and oranges” compared to traditional TV ratings. Netflix didn’t sell ads against its programming at the time, and Nielsen ratings are built to measure people who see ads.
However, he also said that Netflix has made a “pledge to creators” to keep viewing data hidden from the public. “When we started making original programming, our creators felt like they were pretty trapped in this kind of world of nightly ratings and weekend box office that defined their success and failures,” Sarandos said. “Part of this was the relationship with talent, not just the business aspects of it. And I think over time people are much more interested in it.” (Netflix now also has an advertising business and needs to demonstrate return on investment for buyers.)
“I think we have led the way” on transparency, Sarandos added. “I expect it will become more and more transparent.” The director does not want to say what that entails.