Apple kept Ben Stiller in the dark over 'Severance' viewership

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Executive producer and director of "Severance" Ben Stiller didn't know what kind of audience the show would get on Apple TV , with Apple giving very little specific data about who is streaming its content.




"Severance" has been a hit for Apple TV+, with the thriller securing 14 of Apple's 52 Primetime Emmy nominations in its first season. In an interview, movie star and director of the show Ben Stiller admits he doesn't really know how well the show is doing, as Apple doesn't get specific about its data at all.

Discussing how the show is a critical hit with Decider, Stiller said production teams "never know how it's gonna go." In committing to the tone of the show, Stiller didn't know how people would respond. "You just hope that people are going to get it."

The crew "put their whole heart and soul into it, and it doesn't get the recognition, sometimes, so you know it's good," he mentions about the feedback from critics.

Stiller then moves on to getting that feedback, as it is "a big mystery of who's watching what on streaming. They (Apple) don't really tell you."

On the kind of data he gets from Apple, Stiller says "it's really weird. They sort of give you kind of an idea. But it's not like ratings or box office numbers or anything like that. It's like graphs and charts that are relative."

Stiller said it was "hard" to work out how the show was performing as "they don't tell you the numbers" at all. Receiving graphs and charts that show trends with "peaks and valleys," Stiller say "you don't know what the baseline is. I guess could be like, based on 100 people or could be like, 200 million people. We don't know."

While Apple tells him "Yes, this is doing well," the feedback still is difficult to take. "You're trying to interpret what they're saying. But they're straightforward. It's just that's how, I guess, all the streamers do it."

Away from the numbers, Stiller insists visiting San Diego Comic-Con for a panel was a great sign of the show's success. "Seeing all those people there. That was the first time I was like, Oh, wow, this is really like There are people who are really watching this, like human beings to connect with on it."

Apple TV+ is not the only streaming service that keeps its content producers in the dark. Other platforms like Netflix and Amazon keep their cards close to their chest about popularity and viewership volume.

The lack of data points often leaves show runners to look elsewhere for hints of information such as Nielsen's streaming ratings, which counts Apple TV+ alongside other services.

Stiller also clarifies comments made during the Comic-Con panel that an earlier version of the series was more "acid-trippy," in that the script included elements "just for weird's sake," which was also "hard to reconcile with reality." There was an importance that there were "rules for this place and rules to the world" that had to be adhered to, and that it had to be brought "back down to Earth a little bit."

For the second season, Stiller says "there are definitely some real fun, weird things" on the way, but that it needs to remain relatable to the concept of a work family and the characters as human beings.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,395member
    You don’t need access to apples customer data. Make your movie the best in can be with your style and vision. Tens of millions of customers is a lot of cross range. Similar demo to everyone else. You’re not a co owner of the platform. You make content. So make content. if it’s good, people will watch. If not, we’ll, you know…

    ‘’fortunately, it sounds like it’s good. Boom. Done. On to the next. 

    Shows that are based on proposed demo tend to feel manipulative and cheap. Nobody wants that. Many demographics enjoy not only having their broad bush generalized tastes catered to, but also taken outside their comfort zone and broadening their spectrum. 
    edited August 9 tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    kkqd1337kkqd1337 Posts: 383member
    You don’t need access to apples customer data. Make your movie the best in can be with your style and vision. Tens of millions of customers is a lot of cross range. Similar demo to everyone else. You’re not a co owner of the platform. You make content. So make content. if it’s good, people will watch. If not, we’ll, you know…

    ‘’fortunately, it sounds like it’s good. Boom. Done. On to the next. 

    Shows that are based on proposed demo tend to feel manipulative and cheap. Nobody wants that. Many demographics enjoy not only having their broad bush generalized tastes catered to, but also taken outside their comfort zone and broadening their spectrum. 
    i dont know. feedback is important. and the more detailed and specific the feedback, the better. 
    JonyArhendtsM68000watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 12
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 1,395member
    kkqd1337 said:
    You don’t need access to apples customer data. Make your movie the best in can be with your style and vision. Tens of millions of customers is a lot of cross range. Similar demo to everyone else. You’re not a co owner of the platform. You make content. So make content. if it’s good, people will watch. If not, we’ll, you know…

    ‘’fortunately, it sounds like it’s good. Boom. Done. On to the next. 

    Shows that are based on proposed demo tend to feel manipulative and cheap. Nobody wants that. Many demographics enjoy not only having their broad bush generalized tastes catered to, but also taken outside their comfort zone and broadening their spectrum. 
    i dont know. feedback is important. and the more detailed and specific the feedback, the better. 
    Viewer ratings, streaming count, reviews, and critical commentary are great feedback. Platform subscriber info, not so much and not public info. Unless you run Apple TV +, it’s not your info. 
    edited August 9 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 12
    kkqd1337kkqd1337 Posts: 383member
    kkqd1337 said:
    You don’t need access to apples customer data. Make your movie the best in can be with your style and vision. Tens of millions of customers is a lot of cross range. Similar demo to everyone else. You’re not a co owner of the platform. You make content. So make content. if it’s good, people will watch. If not, we’ll, you know…

    ‘’fortunately, it sounds like it’s good. Boom. Done. On to the next. 

    Shows that are based on proposed demo tend to feel manipulative and cheap. Nobody wants that. Many demographics enjoy not only having their broad bush generalized tastes catered to, but also taken outside their comfort zone and broadening their spectrum. 
    i dont know. feedback is important. and the more detailed and specific the feedback, the better. 
    Viewer ratings, streaming count, reviews, and critical commentary are great feedback. Platform subscriber info, not so much and not public info. Unless you run Apple TV +, it’s not your info. 
    Yes I agree.

    But I think stiller is saying they get absolutely nothing 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Apple is claiming privacy for a reason…
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 12
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,913member
    Surely the best feedback you can get from a platform is "please make a second season and yes we understand it is going to get weirder"
    edited August 9 bestkeptsecretcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 12
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,198member
    Apple is claiming privacy for a reason…
    Yes, they don't want competition to know their numbers. It's just Cook saying 'We've had the best season ever... We've sold the most [insert various Apple products here]. They give some figures during their quarterly report but lump several products or categories together with no individual breakdowns.

    It should be no surprise that nobody outside of Apple, is going to get hard numbers returned where competition is keenly felt. Apple may not be a key player in the streaming business, lacking a catalog of shows equal to Netflix or HBO. That's a good reason for keeping there inside baseball inside. Maybe they don't want their content providers thinking "I can do better at HBO" or whoever.
     
    But I think Stiller realizes that it's not really Apple kept Stiller in the dark but that Apple keeps everybody in the dark. The Ted Lasso camp probably doesn't get those numbers either, but I think they're ok with that.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 12
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,629member
    macgui said:
    Apple is claiming privacy for a reason…
    Yes, they don't want competition to know their numbers. It's just Cook saying 'We've had the best season ever... We've sold the most [insert various Apple products here]. They give some figures during their quarterly report but lump several products or categories together with no individual breakdowns.

    It should be no surprise that nobody outside of Apple, is going to get hard numbers returned where competition is keenly felt. Apple may not be a key player in the streaming business, lacking a catalog of shows equal to Netflix or HBO. That's a good reason for keeping there inside baseball inside. Maybe they don't want their content providers thinking "I can do better at HBO" or whoever.
     
    But I think Stiller realizes that it's not really Apple kept Stiller in the dark but that Apple keeps everybody in the dark. The Ted Lasso camp probably doesn't get those numbers either, but I think they're ok with that.
    Apple doesn’t provide unit numbers anymore on their quarterly reports, but they do provide revenue numbers (not by model, but by product line) and by applying an average price to those numbers, one can reasonably calculate approximate units. 

    As for AppleTV, it is buried in “Services”, but industry estimates put them at 25 to 40 million subscribers vs. 130m for Disney+.  

    As for the info that producers get, it should be no surprise because it was probably spelled out in the production contract.   Since there’s no advertising, demographic data isn’t all that relevant.   Would Stiller change the story if he knew that it was mainly 30-somethings watching the show vs. 50-somethings?

    The show got renewed so it obviously means Apple considered the show positively.  Even Apple doesn’t really know which shows drive subs. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 12
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 923member
    zoetmb said:
    Even Apple doesn’t really know which shows drive subs. 
    I'm pretty sure Apple knows exactly how many subs they have and is able to see how many subscribers are watching a particular show, and when they signed up, thus knowing which shows drive subscriber numbers. If all new subs are watching Ted Lasso but very little to nothing else, that would be telling.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 12
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,911member
    Severance is the only reason why I’m an TV subscriber. If they cancel it, I cancel TV.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 923member
    cornchip said:
    Severance is the only reason why I’m an TV subscriber. If they cancel it, I cancel TV.
    Have you browsed the catalog? There is actually some other good content on there despite what people seem to think.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 12
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,374member
    cornchip said:
    Severance is the only reason why I’m an TV subscriber. If they cancel it, I cancel TV.
    Severance has been out for four months and season 2 is at least a year away. So why are you still subscribing?
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