Netflix’s Viewer Measurement System Explained
The streaming giant explained the methodology for measuring viewership, but did they raise more questions?
Netflix has long been secretive about the way they measure the audience for their shows and movies. It wasn’t until late 2018 that they started doling out numbers for SOME of their content. Even then it was only the product that had blown up in a big way.
Controversy surrounded the announcements. Netflix executives explained they counted any account that watched at least 70% of the program’s runtime as a viewer. These numbers were then applied to an entire season of a show. Was it fair? Since the company isn’t supported by advertisers, there was no reason for them to release ratings at all.
The New Methodology
Which had been their defense. As the executive team watched the stock prices soar on the news of the shows being watched by millions of people, a steadier stream of ratings news came out. But the old method wasn’t working any longer.
In a letter touting its fourth-quarter earnings, executives explained how they are now measuring audiences for the shows. Essentially if an account watches any amount of a show, they are counting it as a view. When a show starts playing after a viewer finishes another show, it counts as a view.
By their own admission, this has led to shows being given higher ratings than they would have before. According to the letter: The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric. For example, 45 million member households chose to watch Our Planet under the new metric vs. 33 million under the prior metric.” This could be seen as a way to goose stock prices. However, it seems as reasonable of a way to measure viewership as any other option available.
They felt the need to change the way they looked at the numbers because of changing content. With a wide range of running times; Special runs just 15 minutes, while The Highwaymen runs 132 minutes, the old method didn’t seem fair.
Numbers For Shows
According to the new method for estimating an audience, The Witcher is a huge hit. More than 73 million accounts have watched the show. That number makes it the #1 series launch in Netflix’s history. An argument could be made that it is one of the most popular first season shows in the history of television.
A show that had a shaky debut season but gained popularity once it hit the streamer is You. The first season debuted on Lifetime to tepid (at best) ratings. However, once it hit Netflix the viewership numbers jumped to more than 43 million viewers. The second season, which debuted late in December of 2019 had even more people watching. At least 54 million accounts watched the debut of the second season, making it the rare show that grows from it’s first to the second season.
Growing its audience for the third time is prestige drama, The Crown. 21 million accounts have watched the bio-drama about Queen Elizabeth. While the numbers may not be as impressive as the first two shows, it’s important to remember the goal isn’t always a big audience. Netflix wants awards to show off to stars to get them to work with them.
Time will tell how the new viewership measurement works out for Netflix. Though with the numbers they shared, it seems to be a handy way to make a show a hit.
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