Nielsen measu...

Nielsen measures Netflix ratings

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Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage must join together to save The Big Apple in a Netflix original series.
USA TODAY

Netflix tiptoed into revealing audience measurement, with a ranking of which shows its subscribers “binge-race” fastest. Now the Nielsen ratings service is offering its first data on how many people actually watch the streaming giant’s original series in the first week following their release.

The streaming giant isn’t providing the data: Instead, Nielsen uses the same “people-meter”  technology it employs for traditional TV ratings to measure Netflix’s movies, original series and reruns of older series, all part of its $6 billion annual content budget.  

What Nielsen found for new seasons of three original series — House of Cards, Fuller House and Marvel’s The Defenders — was a big crowd for a service that reaches only 59% of U.S. TV homes. 

The first episode of The Defenders averaged 6.1 million viewers in the week following its Aug. 18 release, while Cards and Fuller House each averaged 4.6 million viewers for season premieres, in the weeks beginning May 30 and Sept. 22, respectively. 

Among adults ages 18 to 49, four of the Season 5 Cards episodes would rank among TV’s top 20 for its first week on the streaming platform, which coincided with the NBA Finals, while all eight episodes of Defenders would rank in the top 20 for the week after its premiere; the opener averaged 2.8 million viewers in that age group, most likely ahead of every broadcast series except America’s Got Talent.

“The more we look at the data, the more personally I’m surprised at how big some of the numbers are, particularly when you put it in the context of linear television,” says Nielsen senior VP Brian Fuhrer. And it’s a safe bet that many more watched these shows in subsequent weeks.

Nielsen’s customers for the new data are studios and networks, including Disney-ABC Television Group, NBCUniversal, A&E Networks and  Warner Bros., which want to know how the shows they sell to Netflix stack up against others as a foundation for negotiating license fees. 

And their interest in cracking the mystery of who’s watching what on Netflix, Fuhrer says, is “as high as pretty much anything I’ve ever introduced in my career.”  Fuhrer says Nielsen expects to begin measuring viewership on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video in 2018, though both rivals reach far fewer homes.

More: Netflix reveals viewers’ favorite ‘binge-racing’ series: ‘Gilmore Girls’

Other findings among the three series highlighted: Cards was most often viewed on mobile and tablet devices; Defenders on video game consoles; and Fuller House on smart TVs. As expected, Fuller skewed heavily female, the majority of Defenders‘ audience was male; and Cards was split almost evenly by gender, Fuhrer says.

And Netflix’s own “binge-racing” data was supported by Nielsen’s findings: Young-adult viewers who watched Fuller House‘s third season on its first day of release watched an average of 4.4 episodes that day alone, while Defenders viewers binged 4.6 episodes and House of Cards fans watched an average of 3.2 episodes. 

 

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