What is a stream­ing hit? A startup may have an­swers

Merced Sun-Star - - Community Classified­s - BY ED­MUND LEE

Nielsen has um­pired tele­vi­sion’s win­ners and losers since the medium was new. Who won the West Coast? Who lost in late night? For decades, the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try has re­lied on the rat­ings gi­ant to mea­sure the value of ev­ery­thing from “All in the Fam­ily” to “Young Shel­don.”

But how do you prove a show’s worth in the age of stream­ing?

A lit­tle-known startup, Par­rot An­a­lyt­ics, says it has come up with a met­ric that can mea­sure what a pro­gram means to a streamer like Net­flix.

It not only counts view­ers but also cal­cu­lates their en­thu­si­asm. From there, Par­rot says, it can an­tic­i­pate what mat­ters most to a stream­ing net­work: how many sub­scribers a show is likely to at­tract.

Wared Seger, the chief ex­ec­u­tive, said the com­pany was built on the idea that a mea­sure­ment sys­tem must take into ac­count the mo­men­tous change in view­ing habits.

“We could each be watch­ing dif­fer­ent shows, on dif­fer­ent plat­forms, at dif­fer­ent times,” Seger said. “You need a new stan­dard.”

Par­rot tracks what Seger, 32, calls “de­mand ex­pres­sions” – a twitchy met­ric he helped de­vise that, he said, takes into ac­count a host of “sig­nals” across the in­ter­net. It fac­tors in Google search terms for a se­ries or film, as well as Face­book likes, pi­rated down­loads and Wikipedia traf­fic to de­ter­mine its pop­u­lar­ity.

“The Witcher,” a fan­tasy se­ries that Net­flix re­leased in De­cem­ber, gen­er­ated 57 times the av­er­age de­mand for all shows mea­sured by Par­rot from Jan­uary to April, mak­ing it one of Net­flix’s big­gest hits. Net­flix con­firmed Par­rot’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion, say­ing “The Witcher” was its “big­gest Sea­son 1 TV se­ries ever.”

Net­flix changed the rhythms – and eco­nom­ics – of home view­ing. With 183 mil­lion sub­scribers world­wide, it has no live pro­gram­ming, no com­mer­cials, no prime time. And un­like net­work TV, Net­flix doesn’t make more money when view­ers watch more hours of pro­gram­ming. Its rev­enue rises when peo­ple sign up.

Ama­zon Prime Video, Dis­ney+, Ap­ple TV+ and HBO Max have de­signed their sys­tems to sim­i­lar ends. (Hulu sells ad­ver­tis­ing but re­quires cus­tomers to pay a monthly fee.) A stream­ing show’s suc­cess de­pends less on how many peo­ple are watch­ing than on how many sub­scribers it can de­liver.

Par­rot aims to mea­sure the abil­ity of a show or film to grab a viewer’s at­ten­tion – an in­creas­ingly scarce com­mod­ity – now that con­tent is end­lessly ex­pand­ing, Seger said. That’s why the com­pany rates shows in re­la­tion to over­all de­mand, rather than use an ab­so­lute fig­ure like a rat­ings point.

Seger said the can­cel­la­tion of one of his fa­vorite shows, “Bos­ton Le­gal,” in 2008 in­spired him to start Par­rot five years later.

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