Netflix's YOU Audience of '40 Million' Gets Crunched, Slashed by FX Boss

He who years ago coined the term “Peak TV” and warned it will be “impossible to maintain quality control with too many shows,” this Monday sliced-n-diced Netflix’s self-reported viewing numbers.

Kicking off his executive session at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, FX Networks president John Landgraf (aka “The Mayor of TV”) presented some pie charts that demonstrated the basic cabler’s high batting average when it comes to original series that merit acclaim versus the total produced.

Based on 166 “Top 10 Shows of 2018” lists, FX series across all genres amassed 259 mentions, compared to Netflix’s 273 (and HBO’s 225), Landgraf noted. FX, though, occupied 18 percent of those lists with just 14 eligible shows, whereas Netflix claimed its 19 percent with 530 (!) eligible shows.

Landgraf then took a microscope to Netflix’s recent claim that YOU, which the streamer acquired from Lifetime, “will be watched by over 40 million member households in its first four weeks.”

Though many were quick to pass along that number unchecked, Landgraf said that since Netflix counts the consumption of “70 percent of any one episode” as a “view” — whereas broadcast and cable viewership is based on average audience over a full season — the streaming giant’s chosen metric is “not remotely an accurate representation of longform program performance.”

Instead, factoring in Nielsen data, Landgraf posited that the actual audience for YOU is one-fifth of what Netflix self-reported. “An average audience of 8 million viewers is good,” he acknowledged, “but it’s not as good as 40 million, which would make you the No. 1 show on television.” By far.

Asked to account for his throwing of “shade” at Netflix and their cherry-picked, self-reported numbers, Landgraf said, “It’s just not a good thing for society when one entity or person gets to unilaterally make the rules or pronounce the truth,” with no independently reported, corroborating data.

Using an elaborate baseball analogy, he said that Netflix is reporting “singles as home runs” and never admitting to strikeouts, whereas broadcast and cable outlets regularly cop to disappointing audiences, bad decisions and cancellations.

But, he said in closing, “One way or the other, the truth will always come out — as it always does.”

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