After years of keeping viewing data under lock and key, streamers have become a little more open about sharing numbers publicly in the past two years. Netflix‘s Ted Sarandos says he expects that trend to continue — and also defended the earlier practice as a part of a “promise” to the company’s creative partners.
“We’re heading toward a world where streaming data will be more available,” the Netflix co-CEO said during the company’s third quarter earnings call on Wednesday. “It will be much more transparent.”
Though most viewing data on streaming series and movies is still unavailable, Netflix releases weekly top 10 lists of its best performing series and movies. Nielsen has been putting out U.S. top 10 lists for three years, and Disney+ has recently begun touting some of its successes as well.
The Writers Guild of America’s recently won contract also enshrines some data transparency into its agreement, using the increasingly standard definition of a “view” (total hours viewed divided by the running time of a movie or season of of a series) to help determine a new success-based residual. Data transparency also remains a sticking point between media companies and striking actors, with SAG-AFTRA asking for a form of revenue sharing.
Sarandos also defended Netflix’s earlier reluctance to share viewing data, saying the company believed in the early days that its data was “apples and oranges” compared to traditional TV ratings. Netflix at the time didn’t sell ads against its programming, and Nielsen ratings are built to measure people who see commercials.
He also said, however, that Netflix made a “promise to creators” in keeping viewing data from public view. “At the time we started creating original programming, our creators felt like they were pretty trapped in this kind of overnight ratings world and weekend box office world defining their success and failures,” Sarandos said. “So part of this was the relationship with talent, not just the business aspects of it. And I do think that, over time, people are much more interested in this.” (Netflix also has an ad business now and needs to demonstrate return on investment for buyers.)
“I think we’ve been leading the charge” on transparency, Sarandos added. “I expect it will be more and more transparent.”