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Netflix Dismisses Nielsen Tracking, Sues Former Executive

26 Nov, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Nielsen’s plan to begin tracking viewership data of subscription streaming services doesn’t register much concern from Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings.

Speaking Nov. 24 in Mexico, Hastings said Nielsen’s efforts, which for the first time would reveal actual viewership data on SVOD programing, including original shows, wouldn’t track viewing on portable devices. Nielsen said it is working to fix this loophole before launch of the tracking service in 2015.

"It's not very relevant. There's so much viewing that happens on a mobile phone or an iPad that [Nielsen wouldn’t] capture," Hastings said.

Indeed, Nielsen in February revealed that 44% of Netflix subscribers access content through a PC, 23% through a mobile phone, 17% a smart TV, 16% a connected TV, 15% a tablet or connected Blu-ray Disc player, 13% Nintendo Wii, 12% Xbox 360 and 10% PlayStation 3.

Regardless, Netflix (and Amazon Prime Instant Video to a lesser extent) has benefited from speculation that original programming such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” generate exceptional viewer numbers without ever having to prove it. This anomaly rankles broadcasters, which compete against Netflix and must disclose viewer data to appease advertisers.

Chief content officer Ted Sarandos has acknowledged that each new original program generated larger viewing audiences than the previous show at launch. As a result, women’s prison dramedy “Orange Is the New Black” is considered to be Netflix most-watched original program.

Separately, Netflix Nov. 24 filed a lawsuit against former CIO Mike Kail, alleging the former VP of IT operations accepted kickbacks from vendors. Kail is now CIO at Yahoo. Netflix is also being sued in France by a consumer group that claims the SVOD’s membership rights are ill defined and written in English, among other concerns.


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