NBC hosted the Golden Globes over the weekend, and as we have heard several times (including from host Ricky Gervais), the network had zero nominations. The Golden Globes was also the first time that many people have watched NBC in months. Beyond Saturday Night Live and the NFL, the network is essentially dead to the Internet-friendly demographic. Must See Thursday is kaput. Hannibal is gone. There’s nothing left for most of us to watch.
Of course, the network still has viewers. Blindspot gets 9 million weekly viewers. The Voice performs well, and presumably, The Blacklist still gets modest ratings, although the Spader series has become a Master of None joke about a show old people watch.
With all the attention these days on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, however, NBC wants to insist they still matter, too. How? By being able to claim that their shows fetch higher ratings than Netflix shows. But how would NBC know? Netflix is famously tight-lipped about how many people watch their shows.
Turns out, NBC hired a technology company called Symphony so they could find out how many people are watching Netflix programming. How does Symphony work? Symphony measures viewership by listening to what we watch through our phones. The software uses audio recognition technology to capture the soundtrack of the shows playing on our phones and other devices.
Well, that’s creepy.
The numbers, however, are interesting. Based on the stats NBC collected from their ratings-stalking service, Jessica Jones averaged 4.8 million viewers; Narcos averaged 3.2 million viewers; and Master of None had 3.9 million viewers. Those aren’t The Walking Dead numbers, but they do compare favorably other basic cable programming like, say, the FX hit American Horror Story (which averages about 5 million viewers).
They also noted that Amazon’s highest rated show, The Man in High Castle, receives about 2.1 million viewers, or, basically, what The Leftovers gets on HBO. Moreover, during the sample period, Netflix’s biggest show — Orange is the New Black — averaged 650,000 viewers, which is also good for a series that was released months before.
Overall, those are very good numbers for a pay service, but they fall short of some of the programs NBC airs on an entrenched network that is free to everyone in the U.S.
Why would NBC want so badly to out Netflix’s ratings, anyway? “I think we need a little bit of perspective when we talk about the impact of Netflix and SVOD (outlets),” Alan Wurtzel, NBCU president of research and media development, told the Television Critics Association.
In other words, NBC is saying that because programs like Blindspot receive 9 million weekly viewers, we should also be paying more attention to them instead of lauding streaming services. NBC is saying because they have more viewers, we should talk about them!
It’s not about the ratings. If NBC wants television critics and the Internet to talk about them, they should make shows worth talking about, instead of shows like I Can Do That, which is a show many reading this have just heard about for the first time.