TV stations rely on detailed analysis of audience figures to not only plan their output but also to put a value on the advertising that keeps the show on the road.
Writing in the Sunday Business Post at the weekend, former RTÉ Executive Willie O’Reilly pointed out research carried out by the BBC which highlighted that the same rules do not apply to Netflix.
While agencies may apply pressure and attribute any downward blip on those who do stand accountable over figures as evidence of a serious shift in audience viewing towards the OTT subscription services led by Netflix, that may not be based on very much more than hearsay.
We do know that Netflix has a very strong subscription base around the world, with a Comreg Survey in 2017 suggesting that 42 per cent of Irish households have the service.
What we do not know however is what they are watching.
Netflix does not publish any granular data about the relative popularity of The Crown or House of Cards over reruns of family movies being used as a pseudo babysitter.
The BBC commissioned research to determine how many might have watched The Crown and came to a figure of seven million, less than half the number that watched the Bodyguard.
Ofcom numbers suggest that in overall terms the streaming service is still only the sixth most watched channel.
In the 15-34-year-old age bracket though, that number rises to second place behind the BBC and again in that same category, the number who watch Netflix has crossed the halfway rubicon at 52 per cent.
It could be all binge-watching on the weekend before payday that drives the numbers, and it could be that the muscle behind RTÉ and Virgin Media promotion of their own stand out performers will keep their edge for a while but wouldn’t it be good to know what was being watched on Netflix rather than just that it was being watched.
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