FX CEO John Landgraf used his TCA appearance to take down Netflix’s release of selective — and, in his opinion, misleading — ratings information, as well as the reporters who swallow the streaming service’s program-performance numbers.
“The source of those numbers: Netflix,” Landgraf scoffed, saying they look “really big” and present Netflix programs as “gigantic hits.”
Most egregious, Landgraf pointed to Netflix’s assertion that the launch of You was seen in 40M households.
“Sounds like they have a hit on their hands,” he smirked.
But “Netflix is not telling you the whole story,” he cautioned, noting that the company is not following the TV measurement metric “you and prior generations of reporters.” That would be the “average audience” – aka an average of how many people are watching in any given minute of a program.
“They have not signed on to using well-established” metrics that would produce apples-to-apples comparisons, Landgraf scolded.
Landgraf accused Netflix of intentionally confusing journalists — and the public — to think the 40M is an average audience number. “Which would mean it’s the biggest hit on TV,” he said.
Netflix subsequently qualified that the number represented people who had watched at least 70% of one episode. Definitely not the same thing.
Landgraf says You averaged 8M viewers. That’s a solid number, “but it’s not an average audience of 40M,” he noted.
For another Netflix series that the streaming network reported a viewership of 40M, Sex Education, the average audience was actually just over 3 million, Landgraf said.
“TV content providers take hundreds of at-bats — you’re going to get some singles, some doubles and some home runs” he said, citing HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead as “huge outliers for those platforms, ratings-wise.”
Netflix never has released data on its strikeouts and misrepresented the scale of its successes, the FX chief blasted, accusing the streamer of deliberately trying to create the “myth of a magic bullet that has eluded everyone else since the beginning of television.”
“Netflix has some good shows and numerous hits,” Landgraf acknowledged, “but creative failure is inevitable, and no one is exempt.”
“None of us enjoys admitting failure,” he said, adding he does not expect Netflix to begin to zealously report its ratings failures.
The truth would help, however.
Because Netflix does not report Nielsen numbers, we are “hard pressed to know what is real,” Landgraf blasted.
Until then, he advised journalists to refrain from accepting the “cherrypicked and unverified data” issued by Netflix.
“And with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions,” he concluded.
One of those questions was about why he’s taking down Netflix now.
“It’s just not a good thing for society when one entity gets to unilaterally make the rules or pronounce the truth,” he argued.
Silicon Valley’s attitude “really bothers me,” he said.
“I just don’t like the notion that any one entity gets to decide what is true and telling you what is true and make their own news.”