This August Nielsen celebrated its 94th birthday. The ratings firm has, somehow, managed to keep alive and (just about) relevant upon a fast-moving media landscape. The announcement, made yesterday, that it can now accurately monitor streaming service viewerships with the aid of audio-recognition tech might sound a little creepy–and it probably is–but it may just, after some time, allow the public some insight into what has hitherto been some murky waters.
Nielsen will not release its newfound data to the public: instead those numbers will go to the likes of NBCUniversal, Disney and others, which could help flatten the playing field for the near future. Netflix, presumably irked by the news, issued a statement rebuking Nielsen’s claim as “not accurate, not even close”.
That is unlikely. What is more so is that, as Netflix continues attempting to frighten the pants off legacy broadcasters (and oftentimes does so), it needs to keep the nuts and bolts of its operation a closely-guarded secret. That way it can propagate the Silicon Valley cycle of hype, money, hype (ad infinitum/nauseam).
Netflix prefers to talk about subscriptions. And in that department, it is flying: this week the Los Gatos-headquartered firm announced in its Q3 financial report that it had added 5.3m streaming subscribers worlwide – outpacing its own 4.4m estimate. It expects to add another 5.05m in Q4 this year, bringing it to a total of around 114m. Profits leapt to $129m – more than double the figure from one year ago.
The company’s earnings ran close to expectations, meanwhile, but markets are bullish: Netflix’s stock is soaring and it will spend between $7bn and $8bn on content in the new year. It also made its first acquisition, buying Kingsman and Kick-Ass comic book publisher Millarworld.
In June it revealed that 6.7 million people viewed the latest season premiere of prison drama Orange is the New Black, having previously stonewalled requests for stats. That compares with HBO’s Game of Thrones, which regularly clocks in at around 10m viewers – though the fantasy epic costs more than twice that of Orange… to make.
While Disney’s 2019-slated service might prove a worthy adversary, Netflix is definitely king of the current ‘Big Three’ streaming services, which also includes Amazon and Hulu. The latter two may have won plenty of subscribers with award-winning content like The Handmaid’s Tail, The Walking Dead and Hulu’s HBO hookup. But Netflix’s aggressive content-making pipeline has won far more eyeballs.
By exposing Netflix’s innards, Nielsen can show other broadcasters and streaming services what it is Netflix does that works – and, more importantly, what doesn’t. That could damage the frontrunner’s domination and allow vital information to be used by its competitors in the near future. Think an Uber/Lyft sort of situation. Pull the cover off a market leader–especially in tech–and you may well mess the bed.