Because their streaming services do net get measured by A.C. Nielsen at all, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime are in a brave-ish new world when it comes to releasing what the craven old world of television calls “ratings.”
Netflix is so brave about its success that the company steadfastly refuses to release viewing data, including stats for its recently released new season of “Arrested Development,” citing a long-standing playground justification: “Who's going to make them?”
But not all information surrounding Netflix or Prime is completely walled off, thanks to companies such as Procera, an Internet monitoring firm that measured Web stats beginning on May 26, when Netflix put all 15 episodes of “Arrested Development” up for rabid consumption. According to Procera, many Internet service providers saw huge spikes in their Netflix traffic on Sunday, pointing to one DSL system where 36 percent of devices were watching at least one episode of the show.
This is a smart way of getting around the gatekeepers. Procera's methodology is probably the most direct way to get to some kind of truth about streaming viewership, at least when Netflix keeps mum on the subject.
Interestingly, compared to Netflix, Prime comes across like a model of transparency, based on the results of its recent “Pilot Season.”
On Wednesday, Amazon announced that its Garry Trudeau-created political satire “Alpha House,” starring John Goodman, and the Silicon Valley sit-com “Betas,” were the first pilots to be picked up for full-season orders.
The orders were based on voting that took place on the Amazon-owned Lovefilm.com. Considering the star ratings that both pilots received on Amazon versus some of the ones that did not make it — “Zombieland” and “Browsers,” we hardly knew ye and obviously did not value your company — the results seem fairly straightforward. But as far as concrete numbers go ...
As streaming takes up a greater percentage of viewing habits, it's likely that a company such as Nielsen, Arbitron or Procera will step in and develop a standard protocol for measuring these things. But will Prime or Netflix even bother? Consider this: networks use viewership to set their advertising rates. Only Hulu Plus inserts advertisements into their streams. The other two have fewer reasons, if any, to reveal their successes or failures, and might decide that silence is golden and transparency has no beneficial color at all.