Magazine article Variety

Netflix Casts Shadow over TCA

Magazine article Variety

Netflix Casts Shadow over TCA

Article excerpt

NUMBING NUMBERS

The streaming network's mysterious viewership levels are a hot topic at the summer confab

Netflix may not have presented at this summer's Television Critics Assn. tour, but its presence was felt nonetheless.

The streaming service was a frequent subject of panels and conversations with TV executives who took issue with the buzz being generated by shows like Emmy-nominated "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development" despite the absence of the hard evidence of ratings. But others took a more charitable view of the company.

Netflix had already been the target of vocal criticism from execs, including FX chief John Landgraf, during January's TCA, before it had even streamed a single episode of original content. (He reiterated those comments this time around.)

Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos was quick to note then that a network like FX is in a different game than his company, since FX revenue is based on ad dollars, and thus on ratings. He also said he didn't understand why pay TV nets like HBO or Showtime would release ratings, guessing perhaps internal reasons or relationships with cable operators.

This summer's TCA marks the first session since Netflix unveiled several original programs and entered the TV biz in a competitive way. During January's TCA, Sarandos said with optimism to a modestly filled room, "We're leading the next great wave of change in the medium of TV."

Perhaps because Netflix operates on a subscription model like premium cable nets, top execs at HBO and Showtime were the most vocal on the topic.

While HBO prez Michael Lombardo does not find it frustrating that Netflix refuses to release viewer data, he does find it "curious."

"I don't know what to make of it," Lombardo told the ballroom of TV critics and reporters last week at TCA. "(Ratings) is certainly one of the questions you ask when assessing whether a show worked or not.... How many people watched it? I think those are fair questions that (the press) has asked us over the years."

Showtime president David Nevins said that, for him, ratings are a function of showmanship. "It's meaningful when I can say 'Ray Donovan' is the biggest first-year show we've ever had," the topper noted.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler said the emergence of another platform to compete against is nothing new for his company. …

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