I have to give Netflix credit for this one, and possibly only time. Last night the streaming/DVD rental giant debuted their first bit of original programming, the fish-out-of-water mob comedy, LILYHAMMER, starring SOPRANOS co-star and E-STREET BAND member Steven Van Sandt. Netflix made all 8 episodes of the shows first season available and in the interest of full disclosure, I have not seen them, nor do I expect to.
This article isn’t really about LILYHAMMER, but rather, this is about Netflix’s decision to not feed the beast and deliver unto the blogosphere and internet news sites like us, the ratings or viewer numbers for the show.
Why? I’ll let Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos explain why. Hit it Teddy…
Many of you have asked us to disclose day-after viewership numbers for our new original series “Lilyhammer,” which Netflix members in the U.S., Canada and Latin America could watch instantly beginning yesterday. Let me explain why we won’t.
We have over 23 million streaming members and they’ll have the opportunity to discover Lilyhammer not just yesterday, today or this week, but over the course of several years. Some members have loved the show so much that they’ve already watched the entire eight-episode first season; we put all the episodes up at once for that reason. Over time, other members will hear about Lilyhammer from their friends or discover it through our recommendation engine, based on the shows and movies they’ve enjoyed in the past.
At Netflix, we are all about giving people choice in the way they enjoy TV shows and movies. They can watch one episode or all eight back-to-back. They can start in the living room on their Smart TV and end in the bedroom on their iPad. We don’t show commercials so we don’t have to deliver audience numbers to advertisers. We do have to deliver a great experience to our members.
We’re confident Lilyhammer will build a sizeable audience on Netflix and we’re excited to be at the forefront of change in the way consumers get their entertainment.
Now this doesn’t rise to level of courageous, after all Netflix has an interest in success or the appearance of success with LILYHAMMER and original programming on their service. They also have a recent history of public embarrassment that they might like to hide from by being less than forthcoming about another possible mistake. With that said though, it is both their prerogative and understandable why they would hide the numbers from us in the entertainment press.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and there is sure value in criticism, but people put too much stock into our opinions. They also pay too much attention to the ratings and numbers we throw out there and it is making the first episode ratings and the opening weekend numbers the final verdict on projects, shortchanging people from discovering them, and hampering the creation of better work.
Look at CHRONICLE. Director Josh Trank is now a hot commodity, someone that may now get a chance at re-booting the FANTASTIC FOUR franchise. Now, those rumors about FF started before the release of CHRONICLE, but would they have remained had the film bombed? Not likely, and that is unfortunate since Trank’s effect of the films success ended long ago, long before a marketing campaign and the thumbnail that writers and reviewers get to paint hit the public, turning up their interest or souring them on the project.
I’m happy to see Netflix stand up in the name of giving a project some space, even if that reasoning is bullshit. At the end of the day we might all be better served if people discovered something for themselves while being informed and not corrupted. For that to happen people like me need to fixate less on numbers and you, our beloved reader, need to be less susceptible to our siren song.