Netflix: Witcher is our biggest series ever (based on a new weird metric)

The Witcher is Netflix’s most popular freshman series yet, the company says.


Netflix continued to brag about how many people watch its shows, this time touting that fantasy show The Witcher was its most popular first-season series yet … and that even more people clicked to watch 6 Underground, an explosion-fest directed by Michael Bay. 

But Netflix switched to a new viewership metric that essentially inflates its numbers by more than a third. Netflix counts a title as “watched” if you have it playing for two minutes. In the past, Netflix wouldn’t start counting something as “watched” until you got through 70% of the first episode of a series or of a film’s total runtime. 

(And Netflix counts any autoplaying video toward those two minutes, it has said in the past.)

Netflix took this kind of measurement out for a spin last month, when it released popularity rankings for 2019. The company reiterated Tuesday that the new two-minute threshold is more fair to all titles, so a three-and-a-half hour epic like The Irishman isn’t at a dramatic disadvantage to a 15-minute show. 

The stats dropped as part of Netflix’s fourth-quarter earnings report, which revealed better-than-expected subscriber growth driven by overseas demand. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tightlipped about viewership. The creator of House of Cards, which put Netflix’s original content efforts on the map, once said the company wouldn’t even share viewership metrics with him. But lately Netflix has loosened up to help recruit talent and stoke up buzz. 

But Netflix’s stats need big disclaimers. For one, Netflix’s numbers aren’t independently verified, nor are they backed up by detailed data from the company. Netflix is in the unique position that it can cherrypick highlights, and we don’t have much independent data to verify it. Traditional media companies, on the other hand, have their box office performance independently monitored, and they’re at the mercy of Nielsen ratings as the barometer for TV shows. 

Speaking of which, some advice: Don’t compare Netflix’s numbers to metrics like Nielsen ratings or box office figures. It’s tempting to compare how many people watched a Netflix show versus one on regular TV, or to estimate how much money a big movie on Netflix would have made at the box office. But these metrics aren’t even close to comparable because the methods behind them differ wildly. 

From the limited data Netflix itself has released so far, Stranger Things has been its most popular series and Bird Box, its most popular movie, but that was based on Netflix’s old measurement system. 

‘Hit’ parade

The Witcher, which is based on a existing franchise of books and video games, was watched by 76 million accounts in the first four weeks of release. And 6 Underground  was watched by 83 million accounts in the same timeframe. 

But they weren’t the only titles Netflix called out Tuesday. All the following figures are for the titles’ first four weeks of release, except for Netflix’s projections where noted: 

  • You, the second season of the psychological thriller series — 54 million accounts, based on first weeks’ viewing since its Dec. 26 release
  • The Crown, the third season of the historical drama series — 21 million accounts (and Netflix said 73 million accounts have watched The Crown since the series launched)
  • Klaus, an animated holiday film nominated for an Oscar — 40 million accounts

The fourth quarter, which concludes with the crucial holiday period, is usually when Netflix mints some of its biggest hits of the year. 

Here are previous viewerships stats Netflix has released (or projected) about the first four weeks of release for other titles, in order of most watched to least. But, again, these are based on its old measurement scheme, which was much more difficult rack up views. 

  • Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic movie starring Sandra Bullock — more than 80 million households 
  • Murder Mystery, a comedy movie starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston — more than 73 million households 
  • Stranger Things season three, a retro sci-fi series — 64 million households 
  • Triple Frontier, an action/heist movie starring Ben Affleck — more than 52 million households
  • The Perfect Date, a teen rom-com movie with heart-throb Noah Centineo — 48 million households
  • Umbrella Academy, a super-hero series — 45 million households
  • Money Heist season three, a Spanish series about a gang of thieves also known as La Casa de Papel — 44 million accounts
  • Tall Girl, a teen rom-com movie — 41 million households. 
  • You, a stalker thriller series that originally aired on Lifetime in the fall — more than 40 million homes
  • Sex Education, a British teen dramedy show –more than 40 million households
  • The Highwaymen, a period crime movie starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson — more than 40 million households
  • Secret Obsession, a movie mystery about a young wife with amnesia — 40 million views
  • The Irishman, a film epic about the Mafia directed by Martin Scorsese — more than 40 million homes
  • Our Planet, a BBC-style nature docu-series — 33 million households
  • Always Be My Maybe, a comedy film with Ali Wong and Randall Park — 32 million households
  • Unbelievable, a true-crime miniseries about the victims of a serial rapist and the detectives hunting him down — 32 million accounts. 
  • Dead to Me, a dramedy series with Christina Applegate — 30 million households
  • Otherhood, a movie about a band of moms visiting their adult sons by surprise — 29 million households 
  • When They See Us, a buzzy limited series from creator Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five case — 25 million households 
  • Bodyguard, a BBC-World Productions series that previously aired in the UK — 23 million member households
  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary film about the Fyre Fest debacle — more than 20 million homes
  • Élite, a Spanish-language high-school soap series — more than 20 million member households 
  • Baby, an Italian teen drama series — more than 10 million homes
  • The Protector, Netflix’s first Turkish original series — more than 10 million households

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2020-01-21 22:38:00 – Source: