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On Wednesday, NBC presented what it said was a peek at the audience for a handful of Netflix shows. Netflix has famously never released viewing figures for its programming — not even to the people who make that programming, according to some accounts.

So on Sunday, when Netflix had its time at the winter TV press tour, two unsurprising things happened: Chief content officer Ted Sarandos called NBC’s estimates “remarkably inaccurate,” and he also refused (and explained why) to offer up any figures of his own.

“The methodology and the data and the measurement and the data itself doesn’t reflect any sense of reality of anything we keep track of,” Sarandos says. NBC’s figures, which used the adults 18-49 demographic, were based on data from a company called Symphony Advanced Media, which uses audio recognition — Shazam for TV shows, to put it simply — to track what viewers are watching.

“That could be because 18- to 49-year-old viewing is so insignificant to us that I can’t even tell you how many 18- to 49-year-old members we have,” Sarandos says.

Sarandos says because Netflix doesn’t report numbers (other than its growing subscriber base) because he doesn’t want every show “benchmarked” to its most successful series.

“We may build a show for 2 million people and we may build a show for 30 million people. We have shows that happens for, yet we would have the natural inclination to say relative to this show, this show’s a failure,” he says. “That puts a lot of creative pressure on the talent that we don’t want to.”

There is, however, one way to tell if a Netflix show underperforms, and it’s similar to what happens on traditional TV: They’d go away. “If we were spending a lot of money on shows that people weren’t watching,” Sarandos says, “they would quit.”

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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