Netflix audience data, streaming industry discourse, and the emerging realities of ‘popular’ television

Michael L. Wayne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
236 Downloads (Pure)


Using the media industry studies approach, this article provides a history of the industrial discourses surrounding Netflix’s audience data. From Netflix’s entry into the streaming market in 2007 until late-2018, the company did not publicize information about viewership. During this time, executives’ public discussions of proprietary data are understood in relation to multiple organizational goals: differentiating the streaming platform from the traditional television industry, denigrating traditional television industry practices, and deflecting criticism. In late-2018, the company began selectively publishing viewership numbers for a small number of original titles to highlight the popularity of the platform’s original content. Although the company maintains its anti-transparency policies, the shift toward selective data releases has significant implications regarding Netflix’s relationship with the traditional television industry. This analysis concludes with a discussion of streaming audience data that situates in the emerging realities of ‘popular’ television in the context the medium’s broader transformations and continuities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-209
Number of pages17
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

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