Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, a critically acclaimed limited series about the Central Park jogger case, premiered a month ago on Netflix. Since then, it has garnered plenty of support (and derision) for its portrayal of the 1989 criminal investigation and the subsequent trials. Even President Donald Trump, who at the time infamously took out a full-page ad in the New York Daily News calling for the death penalty’s reinstatement, has publicly commented on it. So, it’s safe to say that a lot of people have watched it, right?
According to Netflix and DuVernay, they have. In a tweet posted by the director late Tuesday night, the streamer revealed that over 23 million accounts — yes, that’s “accounts” and not “viewers,” “people” or other synonyms for “individuals” — have watched When They See Us worldwide since late May.
As great as this news is for DuVernay and company, it’s difficult not to take it with a massive grain of salt. After all, Netflix doesn’t allow third-party entities like Nielsen to determine viewership numbers as they do for broadcast and cable television. (Neither do Hulu, Amazon Prime and other streamers.) Instead, everything that the streaming giant has had to say about Murder Mystery, Bird Box and other original programming has come from unverifiable internal metrics.
Even so, it’s nice to think that, despite Trump’s insistence (to this day) that the defendants had confessed to the crimes they were accused of (in spite of DNA evidence and exoneration), that millions of people were willing to at least watch When They See Us and consider its narrative instead.