Since it first started airing original content, Netflix has been tight-lipped about how many viewers watch its shows, but that hasn’t stopped others from wondering. Speaking last week during a press tour of the Television Critics Association (TCA) NBCUniversal’s head of research and media development Alan Wurtzel shared estimates on viewer numbers for some of Netflix’s shows, numbers that a Netflix exec says are wrong.
During a talk of his own to the TCA, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos took some time to shoot down Wurtzel’s numbers, which were provided by a company by the name of Symphony. Sarandos said he hoped that NBC didn’t “spend any money” to acquire the numbers, saying that it was “really remarkably inaccurate data,” Business Insider reports.
Symphony acquired its data using a smartphone app that uses speech recognition technology to determine what is playing on a participant’s TV. Using this data, Wurtzel estimated an average of 4.8 million viewers per episode for Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and an average of 3.9 million viewers per episode for Aziz Ansari’s Master of None.
For its part, Netflix has always maintained that numbers don’t matter for its shows the same way they would for a traditional TV network. Since the company makes its money off of subscriptions, not advertising, it says it can afford to create programming for more niche audiences. “We make shows for 2 million viewers and we make shows for 20 million viewers,” Sarandos said.
Ratings may not be important for the company, but that didn’t stop Sarandos from taking a shot at NBC’s own ratings. “There’s a couple of mysteries in play for me,” he said. “One is, why would NBC use their lunch slot with you guys to talk about our ratings? Maybe it’s because it’s more fun than talking about NBC ratings.”
Sarandos never said whether Netflix’s own numbers for its programming were higher or lower than what Wurtzel had estimated, but instead doubled down on the company’s insistence that the numbers aren’t important. According to Sarandos, the company doesn’t track demographics such as age group.