Netflix’s late December releases continue to be its most popular each year, which is no surprise. People are winding down for the holidays and possibly burnt out by family time by then, so they just want to binge. However, Netflix’s numbers might overstate exactly how many people enjoyed these TV shows and movies. Take 2018’s Bird Box (starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich), for example, which the streaming giant claimed reached 45 million eyeballs within its first week of release, whereas Nielsen’s followup numbers still pointed toward a massive hit, only with 26 million people (in the U.S.) watching the film. That vastly lower number is still demolishing the number of people who trot out to an actual movie theater, but it still puts some perspective upon Netflix’s own claims to shareholders. Well, things are getting even more amped up, according to the company’s released numbers for its biggest 2019 holiday players.
It’s worth noting that the old metric (the one that applied to Bird Box and Will Smith’s Bright, which reportedly snagged 11 million viewers in three days in 2017), counted a “view” when someone watched at least 70% of a movie. The newest metric, though, counts a view when an account streams at least two minutes of a title. Netflix’s data is not verified by a third party, and they’ve drastically changed the meaning of a view. Yet they’re freely admitting this maneuver, at least. With that said, here are their reported numbers (tallying up four weeks’ worth of views) for The Witcher and 6 Underground:
The Witcher, which debuted Dec. 20 on Netflix, was chosen to be watched by 76 million customer households in the first four weeks of release, according to the company. That would appear to mean that some 46% of Netflix’s subscribers as of the end of 2019 watched The Witcherover that time span … 6 Underground, the action movie from director Michael Bay and starring Ryan Reynolds, had a viewer count of 83 million households through its first four weeks.
It’s an odd strategy, but will it be a self-defeating one? The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill as lone monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (the protagonist of wildly popular video games and movies), is an unquestionable phenomenon, especially when it comes to a certain earworm. Amping up the true numbers seems a little needless at this point, and it will be interesting if Nielsen follows up with their own take on the matter. As for 6 Underground, the movie’s opening scene revolved around one of the wildest (and literally-eyeball popping) chase scenes in history, and that’s what received the biggest buzz. And anyone who watched those few minutes notched a view in Netfix’s eyes.
Netflix maintains that the new metric will be a useful one while admitting that it results in 35% higher on average numbers for their titles, but that it’s a more fair method of measurement when it comes to titles of different length. In addition, the streamer remains very selective about which ones they’re talking about. No The Irishman and no Marriage Story appear in shareholder letter, apparently, but one can bet that there’s a reason for the omissions. Netflix knows what they’re doing, obviously, but again, it’ll be worth noticing whether Nielsen chimes in over these 2019 holiday releases.