This may be an unpopular opinion to some, but I really dislike Netflix. I don’t hate the streaming giant, since it does give me a healthy amount of shows that I do like, but I find their business model and secrecy infuriating. Netflix has been infamous for never releasing their viewership numbers for years, opting to only release stats to boast how amazing Netflix they’re doing instead of letting the public know how Netflix is actually performing. Never trust a company that is obviously trying to hide something.
Apparently, FX CEO John Landgraf feels the same way I do, calling Netflix’s cherrypicking of data incredibly misleading during the TCA Winter press tour. Landgraf explained that Netflix and FX gauge viewership in entirely different ways, with most cable providers releasing data on who watches their shows based on who actually watches them, while Netflix and most Silicon Valley companies crunch numbers based on video start times instead of retention. In their eyes, watching 2 minutes of a 48 minute show is the same as watching the entire show.
Landgraf gave an example of how Netflix misleads the market by citing their recent claim that their upcoming show Sex Education and You would be watched by “40 million accounts” in their first month of release. Landgraf explains that Netflix backpedaled this statement, saying that You will have “40 million accounts watch at least 70% of one of You’s 10 episodes,” which is a fancy way of saying maybe 8 million people will watch an episode, which doesn’t even tackle how many people may watch the full show. To put the numbers in perspective, Netflix inadvertently claimed that You would have a viewership that would rival the successes of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.
It’s honestly fascinating to see someone that’s actually in the business systematically break down how Netflix obfuscates the truth and gets away with it. If Netflix is only talking about its hits and there are no details about their failures, then Netflix clearly must be doing well! Ask yourself this, and be perfectly honest with yourself; is Netflix doing well? What evidence is there to suggest that Netflix is doing well and isn’t about to capsize over the same way that Moviepass did? In my opinion, there is none, and Landgraf is justified in his assumptions, at least until Netflix fires back at him, which they probably won’t.
But Landgraf couldn’t resist the urge to bolster up his own network’s successes, taking time to illustrate how FX has a better batting average for critical praise and adoration over Netflix’s original programming. Landgraf asserts that of FX’s 14 original shows that aired in 2018, 13 of them have appeared on numerous critic’s “Best of 2018” lists, giving FX a batting average of 92.5% in Landgraf’s eyes. Which specific critics he’s talking about is debatable, but Landgraf also states that of Netflix’s 530 original programs that released in 2018, only 62 programs appeared on critic’s best of lists with an estimated batting average of 11.6%, well beneath FX’s critical praise.
At the end of the day, this is really just FX’s boss touting how FX has far superior programming than Netflix, but he does raise some valid points. Statistically speaking, Netflix does have a glut of original programming that isn’t successful. Not every show is Orange is the New Black or Stranger Things, so the fact that Netflix is ignoring its own failures and sweeping them under the rug is off-putting for me. There’s competition in the air for Netflix, especially with Hulu recently lowering their prices and the ever-looming Disney+ over the horizon. It’ll be interesting to see how Netflix does in 2019 and if their bubble will eventually burst.