As rain outside cast clouds over Southern California Monday, FX chief John Landgraf brought his own brand of shade to the Langham hotel in Pasadena, ripping into Netflix’s recent (and very selective) crowing about viewership numbers. “The source of those numbers? Netflix,” he told critics, invoking laughter from those gathered for the Winter Television Critics Association (TCA) tour. “And what do you know?,” he continued. “The numbers look really big and promote the notion that many shows on their platform are gigantic hits that are watched more than shows on broadcast networks or on basic cable.” Au contraire, argued Landgraf. He cited the recent release of limited internal numbers for Netflix’s highly publicized movie “Bird Box,” as well as series “You” and “Sex Education,” all of which he said aren’t based on average viewing and can’t even be verified.
“One way or another, the truth will come out—it always does” he said, adding that Nielsen will eventually find a way to accurately measure the streaming services. “Until then, everyone in this room might consider waiting until accurate third-party measurement is available to report any viewership on anyone’s platform,” he said. “If you choose to accept anyone’s cherry-picked and unverified internal data, you should at least insist that they give you an average audience number so that the reader is not misled.”
Landgraf, whose FX is widely recognized as one of the best marketing forces in TV, said Netflix has essentially used selective data as a marketing tool to create its own aura of “tremendous success that has eluded everyone else since the creation of television. They have given the impression that the vast majority of shows on their platform are working, and that they have the best batting average and that they have or will have many more hits than anyone else.”
As for Silicon Valley’s take-no-prisoners strategy to dominate markets—whether Facebook for social, Google for search or Netflix for video, “I don’t think that winner-take-all mentality is good for world,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good for America. It’s not necessarily about who wins. It’s about the notion that the balance of power—it’s in our Constitution, it should be in our economy—I think it’s a good thing.”