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Netflix’s wall of secrecy erodes

Friday March 15, 2019. 09:45 PM , from Mac Daily News
“As the race for the best picture Oscar heated up last month, the Hollywood studios knew precisely how successful each of the contenders had been at the box office, except for one: ‘Roma,'” Claire Atkinson reports for NBC News. “The Netflix movie had run in only a handful of theaters, leaving the makers of the other best picture nominees in the dark about whether the critical acclaim of ‘Roma’ had been matched by popular support. Netflix is famously secretive about viewership data, rarely sharing it even with the directors and stars who work with the company, let alone the public.”
MacDailyNews Take: In the 91st Annual Academy Awards rules, box office success or lack thereof is not listed as a requirement of eligibility for the Best Picture award.
If box office success were a criterion, Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial would have won Best Picture in 1983, as it should have anyway over Gandhi, as even its director Richard Attenborough wholeheartedly agreed. (The Academy was still deep in its Spielberg jealousy mode and would, unfortunately, remain so for years. Anyway, we digress.)
“But Nielsen, the media tracking firm that releases traditional television ratings, was watching — and what came next may finally start to erode that wall of secrecy,” Atkinson reports. “Nielsen, which began tracking Netflix in 2017 and employs a combination of audio and digital data collection, found that “Roma,” an arthouse-style movie about the life of a Mexican family, was watched by 3.2 million U.S. households in January and February, according to the data it supplied to NBC News. A million of those households watched the movie over Oscar weekend. Nielsen did not have the viewership data dating back to the movie’s premiere in November, and it does not count mobile or international audiences.”
MacDailyNews Take: If you’re not counting mobile audience, you’re not really counting.
“The numbers for ‘Roma’ are part of a growing number of glimpses into Netflix’s viewership,” Atkinson reports. “The changes could mean the end of Netflix’s near-monopoly on streaming entertainment data, which could reduce one of the company’s key competitive advantages. Netflix has long used its secret user insights to drive decisions on how to spend the billions of dollars the company has been pouring into original programming. Not having to share data has allowed the company to herald its critical successes while flops disappear from view.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Sharing how well projects perform is likely useful for producers, directors, actors, etc. most of whom wish to have their work seen and well-received. That can be done privately with the content creators, though. Keeping the data private works better for subscription services like Netflix — and will work better for Apple’s and others’ services, too — as it keeps subscribers happy, thinking their favorite series are “hits,” instead of perhaps teetering on the edge of cancellation (see traditional ad-supported network TV).
By the way, to digress some more, we agree totally with Spielberg that streaming service films should be eligible for Emmys, not Oscars.
Apple to pursue Oscars and Emmys for new video service – March 15, 2019

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