NBCU Research Chief Talks Stacking, 'Superstore' and "Ted Sarandon"

Netflix goes unmentioned (kinda), as a new stat emerges (live-plus-119!) and full in-season libraries come to VOD.
Courtesy of NBC

Research presentations aren't exactly titillating stuff, especially when bookended by actors and celebrity-producers.

But NBCUniversal numbers guy Alan Wurtzel returned to the Television Critics Association's press tour having generated some of the biggest headlines to come out of the most recent conference. His outing of some purported Netflix "ratings" prompted a war of words with Netflix brass, increased industry speculation about the secretive streamer's user habits and umpteen think pieces.

The president of research and media development, unsurprisingly, had a much bigger audience than he typically sees on Tuesday afternoon. And while the panel lacked any repeat performance of January's surreptitious reveal, Netflix did get a shout-out.

"Netflix has always been the gorilla in the room," said Wurtzel, crunching a variety of numbers and pointing to the daunting penetration of Netflix's 47-million subscriber count. "And, no, I'm not going to fight with Ted Sarandon today."
He meant Sarandos, but that's neither here nor there. Netflix only got a passing mention in the presentation, which touched upon changing viewer habits (still changing!) and circled back to NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt's morning praise for Superstore's ratings climb. 
A slide showing the "extreme long tail" viewing on the Superstore pilot — that's 119 days after the November linear premiere — illustrated that the show doubled its live-plus-seven-day rating of a 2.4 in the key demographic of adults 18-49. Adding DVR, SVOD, OTT and potentially a few other acronyms between days 9 and 119 brought that number up to a 4.8 rating in the key demo. That's quite a lot. 

The long-tail growth is not limited to Superstore. Wurtzel also pointed to Jennifer Lopez drama Shades of Blue, a relatively soft linear performer, as something that's surged on digital. "This is underrating the performance of the show," he said, bemoaning Netflix capping its time-shifting to just five weeks. "There was DVR viewing ... we just can't see it." 
Recognizing the uphill battle, and citing some concerning stats like 79 percent of study respondents who say they're being more selective and 47 percent who now wait until they've heard enough good things about a show, Wurtzel said that in-season stacking is key to bringing viewers on board new series. For that reason, and perhaps teasing out more of Greenblatt's vague talk of an OTT platform earlier in the day, NBC will have full-in season stacking for all primetime shows this fall — save The Blacklist and Law & Order: SVU
"This is what people want," Wurtzel offered.