Whose viewership data should Hollywood trust? A tech firm’s suspicious “outing” lays bare the anger and frustration of networks forced to compete with secrecy.
But it also illustrated in stark terms the key tension in the television business in 2016: How should success be measured, and whose data should the industry trust?
“It’s important to know that TV actually is growing very well, and streaming originals … are supplementing it,” says Symphony CEO Charlie Buchwalter. The company tracked media consumption for NBC with Shazam-like audio-recognition technology, parsing through data from 15,000 smartphone users who have its app.
But critics quickly doubted the data could be trusted, suggesting the move backfired on NBC. “Given what is remarkably inaccurate data, I hope they didn’t spend any money on it,” Sarandos quipped, adding, “Why would NBC use their lunch slot to talk about our ratings? Maybe because it’s more fun than talking about NBC ratings.”