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FX chief John Landgraf blasts Netflix audience count methods

FX chief John Landgraf blasts Netflix audience count methods
John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour that "the truth will come out" about Netflix viewership. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

FX Networks Chairman John Landgraf blasted Netflix over its selective use of audience data, which he says is distorting the perception of how many people are watching the streaming behemoth’s shows.

Speaking Monday at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Pasadena, Landgraf claimed that Netflix’s failure to use the traditional measurement for success of a TV program — the average number of viewers — was misleading.

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"The truth will come out, because it always does," said Landgraf, whose statements reflect a general frustration in the entertainment industry over the lack of transparency in the way Netflix disseminates viewing data.

Netflix has been touting the number of individual subscribers who watch 70% of any single episode within an entire series. The company recently claimed 40 million people had watched the breakout drama series “You.”

“Anyone who read Netflix’s statement about ‘You’ would likely assume that they were getting an average audience number,” Landgraf said, “because that’s how scripted television has always been measured.”

In fact, he said, “You” likely averaged 8 million viewers per episode during its first four weeks on the service, based on Nielsen data collected over that period.

“It’s not an average of 40 million viewers,” Landgraf said, “which would make you the No. 1 show on American television.”

The outspoken executive said another Netflix series, “Sex Education,” was watched by 3 million viewers over its first four weeks, according to Nielsen’s estimate. Netflix had used the count of 40 million member households for that series as well.

Landgraf said that the shows — along with its series “Stranger Things” — are a “huge outlier” on the Netflix platform and that most of its other series are far less popular.

“When you take hundreds of at-bats, you’re going get some singles, some doubles and even the occasional home run,” Landgraf said. “And failing to ever report a single strikeout undercuts an accurate perception of their batting average and misrepresents the scale of their hits.”

Netflix did not publicly comment on Landgraf’s remarks. But the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company has maintained that the measurements that matter to an ad-supported network like FX are different from a subscription service like Netflix and that reporting any false information to shareholders would be illegal.

Times staff writer David Ng in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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