Membership of BARB means that Netflix will reveal streaming numbers for the first time.
Netflix has teamed up with TV ratings agency Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), a UK based organisation that reports broadcast and streaming numbers. Starting in November, the organisation will measure Netflix’s daily streaming numbers as well as report on its monthly reach and share of total identified viewing. The move is a significant departure for the streaming platform after previously being somewhat reticent about its viewership numbers. The publication of independently audited viewing figures will let Netflix be more easily compared with traditional channels.
Last year, BARB introduced streaming numbers to its reporting in the UK, and Disney+ is already signed up. According to the announcement, “BARB is the first industry-owned audience currency in the world that Netflix has joined.”
Broadcast industry experts have suggested that Netflix going public with its viewing figures indicates a sense of confidence from the platform regarding the quality of its content. While Netflix has made its Top 10 rankings public, it has historically kept more detailed metrics closer to its chest. This has led to claims of unfairness in the past, with rivals suspecting that Netflix’s definition of a viewer was someone who had watched just a few minutes of a programme. Programme creators became frustrated as they were unsure if their shows were being watched,or why they had been cancelled.
BBC former head of television strategy, Becky Marvell, warned in 2019 that traditional British broadcasters were “not competing on a level playing field”.
BARB will reveal to the public, and programme makers, exactly how successful – or otherwise- Netflix shows are, at least in the UK. According to The Guardian, preliminary figures from September show how Netflix is already used by two-thirds of the British television viewing public in a given month. Netflix currently accounts for 8% of all television viewing in the UK, making the company larger than Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky, but still far behind the BBC and ITV.
Reed Hastings, co-CEO of Netflix, said in a statement: “Back in 2019, at the RTS conference in Cambridge, I welcomed the idea of Netflix audiences being measured independently. We’ve kept in touch with BARB since then and are pleased to make a commitment to its trusted measurement of how people watch television in the UK.”
Netflix also said that shows on its new ad-supported plan in the US will have ratings available from Nielsen in 2023.