Over the 2018 Christmas break, streaming giant Netflix boasted big numbers with the release of the Sandra Bullock-starring hit "Bird Box" – a whopping 45 million people. Skeptics, however, felt the numbers were either inflated or at least not an accurate representation of the exact number of people watching the film from start-to-finish. According to FX CEO John Landgraf, the streaming platform's "ratings" are not an accurate representation of a long-form program performance.
Speaking Monday morning for the FX semiannual state of the union, THR reports that Landgraf took issue with Netflix's recent estimates "that 40 million households were expected to watch Lifetime castoff You within its first four weeks on the streamer." Keeping in mind Silicon Valley's measurement of video starts, Landgraf concluded that Netflix's projection was not a "remotely accurate representation of a longform program performance."
Citing Nielsen data, Landgraf said that the actual numbers are one-fifth of what Netflix projected, making it an audience of 8 million rather than 40 million, which is roughly the same as any hit cable or network show in the digital age.
"An average audience of 8 million viewers is good, but it’s not as good as 40 million," he said, "which would make you the number one show on television."
Netflix said the original series "Sex Education" pulled in 40 million households as well. For the accurate numbers, Landgraf was even less charitable: 3.1 million viewers.
During the "Bird Box" viewers controversy, CNN Business noted that Netflix has no third-party verifying the numbers other than Netflix itself. "Streaming services have gotten away with opting not to share the abundance of viewership information to which they have access, but as more traditional corners of the entertainment industry feel increasingly jealous of their 45 million-plus pairs of eyes, the blindfold may be coming off," wrote CNN at the time.
When reporters asked Landgraf why he so boldly attacked his competitor, he said that he had a problem with the Silicon Valley "winner takes all" mentality they have been championing.
"I don’t begrudge them their existence," he replied. "What I don't tend to like about Silicon Valley is how the search ecosystem is Google, the social media ecosystem is Facebook. I don’t think that ‘winner takes all’ mentality is good for the world. I don’t think it’s good for America."
"One way or the other, the truth will always come out — as it always does," he concluded.
Netflix recently sparked customer pushback when the streaming giant announced it would be implementing an 18% price hike to help pay for the vast expenses of creating its original programming, which began with the now-canceled "House of Cards" starring Kevin Spacey. Other than the successful original film "Bird Box," the only other original hits Netflix has produced are "Stranger Things" and "The Crown," both of which will be entering their third seasons this summer. The urban-fantasy "Bright" starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton was a critical bomb.
Netflix has raised its subscription prices as many as four times; this is the first price hike that will hit all 58 million U.S. subscribers at once. The lowest priced plan is bumping up a dollar to $9 per month, while the premium plan is rising $2 to $16 per month.