A few months back, we had ourselves a lengthy discussion about the state and continued viability of the Netflix business model – the crux of that discussion being the fact that Netflix simply doesn’t release ratings data.
However, the surprising bit too many was that not only does Netflix not release data to the public, it also doesn’t release it internally to its creators. Don’t believe it? Well House of Cards creator/showrunner Beau Willimon just re-iterated the sentiment.
Willimon admitted in a recent interview with THR that even he doesn't know just how popular House of Cards really is:
To this day, I have no idea how many people have watched the show on Netflix. They have never given me any data whatsoever. All they say is, 'Well, we're doing well and we'd like another season.' And that's really all I need to know.
They don’t release numbers to the general public; they don’t release them to us.
Some may argue this as being a good thing since, as Willimon says in the interview, all that matters is that the people that pay the bills want another season. However, there’s more at play that just a matter of more episodes being produced. Without knowing what their show is worth, the writers and creators making them don’t know what they’re worth, and that’s something that comes into play in a big way during contract re-negotiations.
Without knowing viewership, a creative (be it a writer, actor or producer) has no idea how much to ask for on the money end, which could lead to a confusing situation on both sides of the table. A creator could potentially ask for too little and get ripped off, or Netflix can respond to a high number with false information (“Well, our internal data says you’re only worth about this much.”). Indeed, without seeing that data, how can anyone be sure that statement’s coming from a place of truth (regardless of whether or not it actually is)?
It’s one thing for Netflix not to tell the public how the service's shows do, and in a way it’s understandable (though maddening). It's another thing for the company to not let its creative teams in on those numbers, especially when those creative teams rely on that data to make a living (so they can continue to create the kind of content the public enjoys). It's hard to imagine that kind of situation not leading to some form of difference of opinion down the line, especially as more and more people come out of the haze of newness that is the online video streaming giant.
House of Cards season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.