Netflix gave New York Magazine’s Josef Adalian a full-access pass for his #longread on the company. It’s a good piece and worth your time.
Reading between the lines, I’d suggest that Netflix PR is aiming this one at the creative class/tastemakers in an effort to dispel the sentiment that a) shows are getting lost and b) data is running their decisions.
You can sum up the narrative with a few quotes from the middle of the piece:
Yes, we’re big:
I ask him how many potential viewers Netflix has, since most of its 125 million-plus paid subscriptions are obviously used by more than one person. “About 300 million,” he says. Given that, and the platform’s international reach, couldn’t one of Netflix’s shows eventually reach 40 or 50 million viewers? “Yeah, of course,” Sarandos offers. Has that already happened? “Definitely,” he says.
But we’re targeted:
Sarandos cites IMDb again as evidence for the success of one of Netflix’s original movies, the teen-targeted romantic comedy The Kissing Booth. Sarandos calls it “one of the most-watched movies in the country, and maybe in the world” — but of course he won’t offer me any internal data to back that up. “In [IMDb’s] popularity rankings right now, it’s the No. 4 movie behind Deadpool 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and Solo,” he says. “Jacob Elordi is the male lead. Three weeks ago on the IMDb Star-o-Meter, which is how they rank their popularity, he was No. 25,000. Today he is the No. 1 star in the world. And Joey King, the female lead, went from like No. 17,000 to No. 6. This is a movie that I bet you’d never heard of until I just mentioned it to you.” Sarandos’s point: Because reporters like me don’t have ratings or box-office numbers, we’re too quick to listen to rivals who claim stuff on Netflix is getting lost. “This is the competitive message you hear out of a couple of different networks and studios all the time. It is so wrong,” he says.
And creators love it here:
Netflix won’t even tell its creators how many people watch their shows — which was actually a selling point for recent hires Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes. “Ever since Glee, it’s been a daily death having to get up in the morning and get your daily report card that you know is a lie,” says Murphy. “The people who watch my shows are nontraditional TV viewers who are interested in nontraditional fare. They’re not going to watch something when you tell them to; they’re going to watch it when they want. I have so many tearful conversations with actors, having to say, ‘[The overnight ratings are] not the true story.’” Rhimes says she never paid attention to Nielsen numbers, even when they supposedly mattered. “What I like is that now I don’t have to work at a place where people believe [ratings] could be helpful for me in some way, send me those numbers, and expect me to translate them into anything,” she says.