Netflix released a humungous spreadsheet earlier this week that took a deep dive into its viewing data. And there are some fascinating nuggets in there.
What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report represents both the end of an era and the start of a new one. Netflix and the other streamers have always been notoriously secretive about their viewing figures. But, as they all start to chase advertisers (only Apple TV has no public plans to launch ad-supported services), the companies are having to come clean about how many people are watching how many programs.
The pressure to do this comes from several directions. Advertisers want to know how many people are seeing their ads; content creators want to know what works and what doesn't (and what may get cancelled and what won't); and the companies that specialize in analyzing viewing figures, such as Nielsen, have increasingly sophisticated tools that can estimate how much on-demand content is being watched. By releasing its own data, Netflix thus gets to guide the conversation a bit.
And it’s a conversation that perhaps needs some nudging in the right direction.
This is the first in what it says will be a bi-annual report covering the viewing time for 18,000 titles (or around 99% of the Netflix catalog) from January to June 2023. However, Netflix has chosen to release the hours viewed for each title rather than the actual views themselves, which is how it calculates its Top 10s nowadays. And there is a definite difference as ‘views’ divides hours viewed by runtime. If you don’t do that, then long-running series will consistently chart higher than movies; the 13 hours of Stranger Things Season 4 will always log more hours of eyeballs than the 118 minutes of The Killer.
It’s a bit of a rum choice, though it might all change with the following report as it pivoted from viewing time to views for its Top 10s only recently in June. And it’s worth pointing out that either way, it gives no insight into how many viewers completed a title or even watched more than just the first episode. The company has twitched the curtain aside rather than thrown it open entirely.
All that given, here are some highlights.
Wednesday is stupidly popular. It’s the 4th most-watched show with 507.7 million hours logged, which is impressive, seeing as how it was all released outside the actual window of the report.
As Deadline reports, Shadow and Bone is the most-viewed English-language scripted series from that period to get the axe. The series saw 192m hours viewed in its first 100ish days, which allowed it to rank as high as No. 26. The problem is that when you divide it by the runtime to get the actual views, that only comes to around 24m, which is a lot less impressive for what is obviously a seriously costly series.
The most popular show? The Night Agent with 812m hours. All the more impressive as it debuted halfway through the accounting period.
Stranger Things has a seriously long tail. While Season 4 is the most watched (133.6m hours), it’s followed by Season 1 (77.8m - which is impressive given that it’s eight years old next year), Season 2 (69.2m), and Season 3 (67m).
Korean content rules the foreign language roost. The Glory took third place overall with 622.8m views.
And interestingly, while the Top 100 is overwhelmingly comprised of original content, on a call related to the data dump, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said that licensed content accounted for about 45% of all viewers, with originals the other 55%. Oh, and non-English stories generated 30% of all viewing. It will be interesting to see how that changes once the ripple effects of the recent Holywood strikes start making their way through to the release schedules…