On 'Views' and Useless Metrics
Plus: a deadly Denzel, assigned!
Here’s some information for you: The new Star Wars show Ahsoka racked up 14 million views in its opening week!
Here’s a question for you: Is this information of any real use?
And here’s an answer for you: Well … no?
I feel as though this datecdote, as the Entertainment Strategy Guy likes to call the unprompted context-free nuggets of news streamers choose to divulge, is a handy representation of why the writers and the actors are so frustrated with the lack of data transparency handed out by the streaming companies. Let’s break down why that “14 million views” number is functionally useless.
Prior to the release of this datecdote, Samba TV reported that 1.2 million households, or roughly one percent of all households in America, watched Ahsoka in its first five days of release. That figure dropped to 956,000 households for the second episode. Not so fast, Disney says! There were actually 14 million views!
However, “views” doesn’t mean “viewers.” It doesn’t even mean “completed views.” It is, rather, an average: Disney+ calculates “views” by taking the total number of minutes viewed and dividing that number by the episode’s run time. “Views” is not concrete data. The total number of minutes viewed—something like 756 million, if my back-of-napkin math is accurate—is a concrete number, I guess, though I’m not sure how useful it is. But “views” is functionally meaningless, particularly sans context about the views generated by similar shows.
“Wait!” I hear you exclaiming. “The Walt Disney Company said it ‘was the most-watched title on Disney+ this past week.’” I mean. I’m sure it was. But who cares? It’s the biggest series released that week, of course it’s going to be the most-watched single episode of a show. How does it compare to Andor or WandaVision over a similar time period? Or, like, an average week of Bluey consumption?
My point is simple: the studios have the data and they’re happy to release it in dribs and drabs when it suits their purposes, but their purpose is solely and always to make the studio look good and smart. When we only know what constitutes a success in the studio’s eyes, neither the studio’s consumers nor its employees (that is: the writers and the actors) have any idea what constitutes a failure. And you can’t really understand success if you don’t also understand failure.
We talked about this lack of transparency at length on Across the Movie Aisle this week; for what it’s worth, I still don’t believe transparency for transparency’s sake should be the union’s goal. Their goal should simply be to extract wages and figure out a way to divvy those wages up amongst the highest-performing productions. Maybe that divvying derives from total data transparency; maybe it comes instead via outsourcing the definition of appeal to a third party like Parrot Analytics in order to keep the actual data held by the streamers private. But something has to change, because this habit of relying on the studios for little bits of information and no more is getting tiresome.
This week I reviewed The Equalizer 3, the latest Antoine Fuqua film to double as a meditation on the nature of righteous violence. Indeed, there’s so much Christian imagery in this picture wrapped around so much righteous violence that it could well have been called Just War Theory: The Motion Picture.
I am fascinated by this Taylor Swift theatrical experience thing. ICYMI, Swift announced that a concert from her Eras Tour will hit theaters in October and everyone lost their minds. Concert movies are nothing new, of course, but this is the first time I remember a concert movie crashing AMC’s website. It’s also the first time I can remember a concert film getting a proper four-week theatrical run; Matt Belloni reports that theaters had to agree to a minimum of four weeks of bookings and also that the concert won’t hit streaming for at least 13 weeks. Furthermore, the Swifts made the deal directly with AMC, which will handle distribution to other theater chains in addition to its own. Fascinating times. And a shot across the bow of the studios who have spent the last few months contemplating release delays as a result of the strike. Hopefully, this is just another pressure point to get a deal done.
Speaking of release delays: on today’s Across the Movie Aisle, Alyssa, Peter, and I discussed the movies we’d least like to see get moved off of their release dates.
People seemed to enjoy last week’s episode of The Bulwark Goes to Hollywood with Chris Yogerst about the early days of Warner Bros. and the Brothers Warner themselves. Perhaps YOU would enjoy it?
Assigned Viewing: Man on Fire (Max)
Denzel Washington as walking, talking death. That’s it, that’s the movie. Enjoy!