Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Ratings Are in for Alpha House, Amazon’s First Made-for-the-Web TV Show

Last Friday Amazon started streaming the first three episodes of “Alpha House,” its first home-grown TV show. Wouldn’t it be great to know how many people watched it?

Sure it would! But you are much more likely to take a ride on the Hyperloop than you are to get any meaningful statistic out of Amazon.

So instead, the company has announced that over the past weekend, “Alpha House” was its “number one most-watched show.”

What exactly does that mean? An Amazon rep semi-clarifies via email: “It means more Amazon customers watched Alpha House than any other series on Prime Instant Video over the weekend.”

Of course, if this wasn’t true, it might have qualified as news, since Amazon made sure that Alpha House was heavily promoted to Prime Instant Video users. I saw ads for the show every time I logged in to watch “The Good Wife” over the weekend. And I definitely would have watched it, except that I saw the first three episodes last week at a schmancy event Amazon hosted at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The show, a Washington satire written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, is pretty good, by the way. And it seems to pick up steam as it goes along, so I’m interested to see future episodes, which Amazon will start doling out once a week, instead of doing a Netflix-style dump.

And here we should note that Netflix, which often does provide some level of detail about its business, hasn’t offered any specific viewing data about its own Washington show, “House of Cards,” or any of its other made-for-the-Web streamers.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald