BTIG's Greenfield disputes Nielsen, says SVOD ratings unnecessary

BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield dismissed Nielsen's move into SVOD ratings as an unnecessary action made in a "misguided and flawed" effort to keep the audience measurement company relevant in the digital age.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal last week, Nielsen Global President Steven Hasker and Glenn Enoch, senior VP  of audience insights for the research company, said that SVOD companies owe it to content creators to be more transparent as to how many viewers are watching their programs. 

And while online video operators like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Amazon Prime Video (NASDAQ: AMZN) have been notoriously reluctant to disclose viewer metrics, Nielsen has been busy devising ways to measure audience for them.

To Greenfield's thinking, however, SVOD services are essentially program bundles, just like MVPD services -- the key metrics are how many customers sign up for the service based on the programming, and how many would leave the service if it wasn't there. Individual audience sizes are no longer relevant, Greenfield said. 

"Would [Netflix series] Orange is the New Black (OITNB) be more valuable to Lionsgate if detailed viewership information was released by Netflix?" Greenfield asked on his blog in response to the op-ed. "While we doubt any studio would not want more vs. less information, the reality is what you really want to know is how many subscribers would drop Netflix if OITNB were not there, how many would not sign-up if OITNB did not exist and how many would be willing to pay more for Netflix monthly because OITNB is on the service."

Hasker and Enoch had argued that, "To understand the value of content on SVOD services, content owners need to understand how many people are watching, their demographic information and how their content compares against other programming. This transparency should come from industry-wide measurement directly comparable to today's TV ratings. This would also help prevent the 'prisoners dilemma' faced by media companies should they decide to pull their shows and films from SVOD services, only to learn that peers haven't followed suit."

All of this data, Greenfield argued, is only relevant to an ad-supported linear television business that is in decline.

"Nielsen is trying to remain relevant in a non-linear, on-demand video world (often ad-free or ad-lite) that has superior forms of measurement to Nielsen," Greenfield said. "We feel strongly that Nielsen's op-ed is misguided and flawed."

For more:
- read this BTIG Research blog post
- read this Wall Street Journal opinion piece

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