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Netflix Is Getting More Transparent, Without Giving Everything Away – Monomaxos

There was a time when Netflix shared very little about what subscribers were watching on its service. When House of Cards was released 10 years ago, the streaming giant proclaimed that it was a hit—the most streamed title on Netflix—but declined to reveal just how many of its then 36 million subscribers had watched the show. “There’s no real business reason for us to report those numbers,” Ted Sarandos, now the company’s co-CEO, told reporters at the time.

But over the years, Netflix has found that there is a reason to share some selective viewership data. In 2021, the company began publishing top 10 lists because, in part, it had discovered that its subscribers liked to know what other people were watching. And in September, in an effort to end the 148-day writers strike, Netflix was one of several streamers that agreed to share viewership data with the Writers Guild of America that would be used to pay scribes a new streaming bonus.

Now, Netflix is sharing its most comprehensive look yet at what its 247 million subscribers are watching. In a new report out Tuesday, the streamer has revealed a near comprehensive list of the original and licensed titles viewed on its platform for the first half of 2023. The inaugural report—which will be released twice yearly going forward—shares viewership data for 18,000 movies and TV shows, which the company says represents 99% of all viewing on its service from January through June.

“We’ve been getting increasingly more and more transparent about what people are watching on Netflix,” Sarandos told press during a conference call to announce what it’s calling What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report. “When we started in streaming 16 years ago, it was a pretty exotic proposition. There were no other streamers to compare to us, and comparing live TV or live plus seven to Netflix on demand was like comparing apples to oranges. But as we’ve grown and streaming has become more mainstream in the US, it makes up more TV time than cable or broadcast, so we’ve become much more open. Two years ago, in November of 2021, we started publishing our top 10 list and our most-watched titles across film and television, as well as our most popular list. We also privately share much more detailed information, title-specific information, with our creators. But we wanted to go even further, and that’s what we’re here for today.”

Here are some of the revelations from the report: Season one of The Night Agent was the most-viewed title on the platform during the first six months of the year, with more than 812 million hours viewed. The other titles in the top five include Ginny & Georgia (season two), The Glory (season one), Wednesday (season one), and Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. The most-viewed film was Jennifer Lopez starrer The Mother, with nearly 250 million hours viewed.

It’s not just originals that perform well on Netflix. During the six-month period, 45% of viewing came from licensed titles, said Lauren Smith, Netflix’s vice president of strategy and analysis. Some of the most popular were kids shows like Paw Patrol and Cocomelon, as well as cable stalwarts The Walking Dead, Suits, and Breaking Bad.

There are also many titles that garnered much less attention from Netflix’s subscriber base. The report only includes shows that were watched for over 50,000 hours. The bottom of the list features several international titles that were not released globally, as well as some old stand-up specials and licensed movies. “Success can come in all shapes and sizes because our member base is so big and diverse,” Smith said, pointing to two French titles, En Place and Rhythm & Flow, that are not in the top 1,000 titles, but “both thrilled our French members.”

Although the report provides the most comprehensive look at viewership on Netflix to date, it still doesn’t paint a complete picture of popularity on the platform. Wednesday, for example, is Netflix’s most-popular English-language TV show to date, but ranked No. 4 during the report period because it was released more than a month earlier, in November 2022. The report also relies on the “hours viewed” metric, which provides a broad picture of what Netflix subscribers are watching—but doesn’t indicate how much of its membership base tuned in, or how many viewers watched a title all the way through.

The report also only documents viewership on a global scale. Sarandos said Netflix does not plan to release country-level lists, “because it’s an enormous amount of intelligence for competition purposes.”

Even so, Netflix releases more data than its streaming competitors. And Sarandos said the report should help people better understand what is resonating with Netflix subscribers. “I do think this is a good reflection of the success of our shows,” he said. “We really do run the business trying to please our members, and we think the best way to judge that is: Do the movies and shows that we produce or license thrill those members in such a way that they stay engaged? Hardly anybody turns off things that they love, and hardly anyone watches things that they hate when it’s so easy to switch to something else. So we think this is the most accurate reflection of that.”
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