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TheStreet Open House

How Many People Actually Watch Netflix Originals?

Stocks in this article: NFLXDISNWSATWXCBS

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I hear -- directly and indirectly -- from a considerable number of people that "good" journalism "died" a long time ago. I disagree. It's more about an epidemic we're dealing with: A shortage of good journalists.

Nothing illustrates this deficit better than coverage -- across spaces -- of Netflix (NFLX). CNBC's Julia Boorstin -- thankfully, though all for naught -- bucked that trend on Wednesday in her exclusive interview with Reed Hastings. I urge you watch the video, embedded just down the page. However, by and large, Hastings receives a free pass.

Even when journalists question Netflix strategy, they miss. Consider a recent Forbes piece that tackles the type of sideshow argument Hastings prefers you focus on -- the merits of allowing viewers to consume Netflix originals in a binge. Such an irrelevant topic. Yet the article glosses over something that actually matters vis-a-vis "Arrested Development":

A ratings bust when it originally aired, Arrested roared back to life on Netflix with a strong debut according to network intelligence firm Procera . . . It's estimated that twice as many people streamed an episode over the weekend as watched Netflix's House of Cards when it debuted in February. But even if viewership is strong, the larger issue for Netflix is that the moment has already come and gone.


And then you have the article Forbes sourced from Mashable: 'Arrested Development' A Streaming Success For Netflix. I respect the guys at both Mashable and Forbes, but that's simply shoddy journalism. Period.

No other television network -- and this is what Netflix tells us it is -- can get away with airing original programming only to repeatedly answer questions about viewership with the imprecision of a high school student at a science fair and the slipperiness of a lot full of slicked-back used car salesmen.

What was Julia Boorstin supposed to do? Start yelling at Hastings? Refuse to continue the interview until he provided actual metrics? I don't expect that. She's in a different position than I am. Given the context of the situation, she did what she could. Plus, none of us know the ground rules Netflix set up -- presuming it did (because maybe it didn't) -- that may have prevented her from being more aggressive. It would not surprise me if Hastings made it clear pre-interview that he would not go to particular places.

But that's neither here nor there. Hats off to Boorstin and thumbs down to practically every other media member and Wall Street analyst who has ever uttered the word "Netflix." It's their fault that journalism sits in the state that it is. They refuse to push, to dig, to talk to people, to ask the tough questions -- repeatedly -- until they get an answer.

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