Netflix’s wall of secrecy erodes

“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


      1. ET was to me at least a Deeply disappointing film great entertainment for kids but typically trivialising of the genre sadly that has haunted it since the 50s B movie days. Spielberg helped populise SF true and one has to be thankful for that in a way, but only at the expense of the audience taking it seriously which to my mind is a double edged sword that only entrenches public opinion that SF is predominantly a comical children’s entertainment genre. It will be interesting to see how Apples treatment of Foundation succeeds in that environment, a series that tackles dystopian futures that make us think (or should do) about the future based on decisions we make now rather than simply laugh at some evolving Disneyworld. At least Gandhi tried to educate us about the past and present its a shame that Spielberg couldn’t once in a while try to do the same about the future, after all he once made the effort in similar fashion to Gandhi, with Shindlers List. Doesn’t preclude the jokey stuff completely just broadens the horizons somewhat.

    1. E.T. was an infinitely more creative and fundamental piece of cinema than Gandhi.

      (Business partner Diana Hawkins) and I went to see ET in Los Angeles shortly before all the awards and we used language when we came out, to the extent of saying ‘we have no chance – E.T. should and will walk away with it.

      Without the initial premise of Mahatma Gandhi, the film [Gandhi] would be nothing. Therefore it’s a narrative film but it’s a piece of narration rather than a piece of cinema, as such.

      E.T. depended absolutely on the concept of cinema and I think that Steven Spielberg, who I’m very fond of, is a genius. I think E.T. is a quite extraordinary piece of cinema.

      Lord Richard Attenborough

    2. Ghandi is a typical bad pick. Hollywood is swayed by subject matter, and jealousy as MDN states correctly, when filmmaking like E.T. is obviously superior/

  1. Watched Green Book last night and agree with the Oscars.
    Tried to watch Roma and had to turn it off after 20 minutes. Was like watching paint dry. Slow back and forth wide angle pans was making me dizzy. I’ve worked on 4 Indies, 2 as DP… and Roma was just visually gimmicky. Should have been a short.

    1. 100% ROMA was overhyped, HW PC BS. Green Book I’ve watched 5x already and I love it more each viewing. It’s not edgy (read, hateful) enough for Spike and others, but I love the characters and the chemistry between Ali and Mortensen. Fantastic movie, and I’m glad it won.

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