Two days after Netflix reported yet another quarter of record subscriber growth, we’re getting fresh hope that someone–finally–will provide a meaningful glimpse into how many people watch Netflix shows. Audience measurement firm Nielsen said today it’s offering a service to media companies that will provide ratings data across some 12,000 Netflix shows and movies, including its originals. The service, reports the New York Times, uses audio recognition software to track viewing in a population sample of 44,000 Nielsen-rated homes.
The catch? Nielsen will not release the data to the general public. Only media partners get a glimpse, although those partners could release it publicly.
We’ve been hearing about this for a while. News that Nielsen was able to track some Netflix content began circulating in 2014. Similar reports sprouted up again in 2015 and 2016. And earlier this year, it said it would start reporting “eligible TV viewing” from Hulu and YouTube TV in its ratings.
Until I can Google “How many people watch Stranger Things?” and get a straight answer, I’m not holding my breath. That said, Nielsen’s analytics gurus are incredibly smart, and if they can really do what they say they can do, here’s hoping we’ll all see some insightful metrics soon.
Netflix has long been dismissive of attempts to measure audiences of its specific shows. It contends that comparisons to traditional television are problematic because people consume streaming content differently, which is true enough. But the company is frustratingly secretive about metrics. It releases virtually no viewership data outside of those occasional top 20 lists that provide vague stats around which shows are most binge-watched.