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Netflix Returns Fire, Says NBC Has ‘Remarkably Inaccurate Data’ and 18-49 Demo ‘Means Nothing’

Company will spend $6 billion on content in 2016

Ted Sarandos said Netflix will air more than 600 hours of original content in 2016. Getty Images

Netflix has kept its ratings metrics under lock and key for several years, refusing to share that data even with the creators of its own original series. So predictably, the streaming service was none too thrilled last week when NBC shared Netflix ratings data from Symphony Advanced Media, which measured the 18-49 demographic of each Netflix episode released last fall.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, returned fire today as he spoke at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour and blasted the "remarkably inaccurate data" from NBC and Symphony.

"The methodology and the measurement and the data itself doesn't reflect any sense of reality of anything that we keep track of," said Sarandos, who noted that the 18-49 demographic that Symphony measured "is so insignificant to us that I can't even tell you how many 18-49-year-old members we have. … It's an advertising-driven demographic that means nothing to Netflix."

Sarandos took a shot at NBC, which in addition to releasing that data said that Netflix doesn't yet pose a "consistent" threat to broadcasters. "Why would NBC use their lunch slot with you to talk about our ratings? Maybe because it's more fun than talking about NBC ratings!" said Sarandos of NBC, which is comfortably leading all networks in adults 18-49.

"There is not an apples to apples comparison to Netflix watching and any reported Nielsen rating," said Sarandos, though as usual, he declined to give any specific metrics. "I do think that once we give a number for a show, then every number will be benchmarked off of that show," he said, explaining that some Netflix series are "built for 2 million people" while others are "built for 30 million … that puts a lot of creative pressure on the talent that we don't want to."

However, Netflix did make an exception to its "no ratings" mantra by recently sharing some metrics about its original movies Beasts of No Nation and The Ridiculous Six. "A movie with no box office is different than a show with no TV ratings," Sarandos said. "We also wanted to give some people some sense that the investment was making sense."

About the only data that Sarandos would provide about Netflix viewing: "Somewhere in the world, every second of every day, someone is pushing play to start a Netflix original show."

Netflix will spend $6 billion on content in 2016, a figure that covers both original and acquired series, and offers "more than 600 hours of new, high-quality original content," said Sarandos.

That includes returning shows Marvel's Daredevil (Season 2 debuts March 18), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (April 15), Grace & Frankie (May 6) and Orange Is the New Black (June 17). Additionally, Netflix announced today that Marvel's Jessica Jones has been picked up for a second season.

Netflix is also rolling out several new series—including Will Arnett comedy Flaked (premiering March 11), Ashton Kutcher comedy The Ranch (April 1), French drama Marseille (May 5) and Baz Luhrmann's music drama The Get Down (Aug. 12)‚ while also "doubling down" on kids and family series, launching 20 more of those this year.

Despite that overwhelming volume of original content, "we don't think there's too much TV. And if there is too much TV, someone else is going to have to slow down because we have big plans for 2016 and beyond," said Sarandos. And even as it has accelerated its output, "we don't think we've sacrificed an ounce of quality."

Netflix, which is now available in 190 countries, said it thinks globally, not domestically. "We are running a global network, one that is not comparable, either in business or cultural terms, to anything that's come before," said Sarandos. "The profitability of the company is mostly driven on our international expansion and pace." Currently, the company has 70 million subscribers globally and around 43 million in the U.S.

As part of its global expansion, "every year, the exclusions of different countries in our licensing agreements will become less and less. Our ultimate goal is that Netflix is basically the same everywhere in the world," Sarandos said. "Today, every original content dollar we're spending is purely global. Increasingly, every licensing dollar we're spending is purely global."

In other news, Sarandos said that while "there's no technological reason not to do live" programming, Netflix has "no immediate plans to pursue live sports or news" because that "muddies the consumer proposition" for on-demand programming.

While the upcoming Baz Luhrmann production Get Down is splitting its first season into two halves, Netflix isn't rethinking its binge-watching model of releasing an entire season at once.  "It's not an across-the-board change. We will always play with the release models to try to accelerate how quickly we can deliver them and sometimes how to reduce the window of times between seasons," said Sarandos. Luhrmann's productions "take a long time" to complete and this allowed Netlfix  to "accelerate the delivery model for consumers who really excited to see the show."

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