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Dark wizards at NBC claim they know Netflix’s rating numbers

In an entertainment industry where very little is still left to the imagination, Netflix’s rating numbers remain one of the great unknowns: although it’ll occasionally crow—justifiably, or not, as in its recent proud claims about the inexplicable drawing power of Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous 6 or a simple air circulation appliance—in regards to a success or two, the streaming service has never released the actual numbers of viewers who watch their shows. (Presumably because, with no advertisers to lure in with big, flashy numbers, there’s no especially pertinent reason for the company to do so.)

But now, the vile necromancers at NBC are claiming to have captured the precious data, utilizing that darkest of dark magics: technology. Speaking at the network’s presentation at the TCA Press Tour today, NBC Universal president Alan Wurtzel cited numbers from San Francisco-based tech firm Symphony Advanced Media in his claims that network TV has nothing to fear from the rise of streaming programs and the inescapable binge watch. Symphony specializes in the passive acquisition of TV ratings data, using a proprietary tracking app that lets the user’s phone listen in to whatever its user—who we’re just going to assume is a paid respondent, a la Nielsen—is watching, and ID it based on sound. That way, Symphony can track everything a participant watches, whether it’s through their phone, video game console, or regular TV. (Nielsen itself started talking about using technology like this last year, in its ongoing efforts to get a handle on the multi-screen-viewing world.)

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Anyway, according to the company, NBC feels like it doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to Netflix utterly destroying the network TV system. Citing Symphony’s data—pulled from a survey of 15,000 respondents—Wurtzel said an average of roughly 4.8 million people watched each episode of Jessica Jones in the month after they were released, with slightly smaller numbers going to shows like Narcos and Master Of None. (Amazon’s supposedly highest-rated show, meanwhile, The Man In The High Castle, pulled in an average of 2.1 million viewers per episode.) Those numbers then drop way off in the weeks after the show’s release, as people finish their binges and move on to something else. (Often, according to Symphony, back to what we’re apparently going to have to start calling “linear TV.”)

Wurtzel referred to his presentation as the “Netflix reality check,” and suggested that viewers and TV writers needed “ a little bit of perspective when we talk about the impact of Netflix.” And while that might be a valid point, it should also be stressed that Symphony’s tech is really new, and that nobody yet has a good understanding of what “ratings” actually mean for an on-demand, subscriber-based outlet like Netflix. (Also, we hope Symphony wasn’t relying on the Jessica Jones theme song as the audio cue for its data collection, because we’re pretty sure nobody’s watching the opening credits again when they’re nine episodes into a bleary-eyed, super-powered vigilante binge.)

[h/t Variety]

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