The New York Times Company
Earlier this year, Netflix started doing something it had not done since it started streaming shows of its own in 2012: Disclosing viewership figures for its original series and movies.
The streaming giant, which has more than 158 million subscribers worldwide, didn’t make a big deal of it, tucking the data into its quarterly letters to shareholders, starting in January.
By Wednesday afternoon, with the release of its third-quarter earnings for 2019, Netflix had gone public with the viewership data for a year’s worth of its most-watched original movies and television shows, from October 2018 through September 2019.
And a pair of top 10 lists emerged.
At the top of the list for its television series is, no surprise, the supernatural, ’80s-besotted series “Stranger Things,” with 64 million plays. In second place — who would have guessed? — is “The Umbrella Academy,” with 45 million views.
For Netflix original movies, the most-watched are the Sandra Bullock thriller “Bird Box,” with an eye-opening 80 million views, and the Adam Sandler comedy “Murder Mystery,” with 73 million.
The data shows broader trends, too. High school comedies are especially popular on the service, both for television and movies, as are some Spanish-language series.
Hollywood has expressed irritation with Netflix’s selective disclosures of its viewership numbers from the moment the company started going public with them. Executives at other entertainment companies — whose shows succeed or fail based largely on ratings measured by the research firm Nielsen — have groused that the Netflix numbers did not correspond to any traditional statistics, that they were inflated and that they highlighted successes while ignoring the scores of series and movies that failed to attract significant audiences.
But the decision to go public with even some of its data was something of an about-face for Netflix, which once claimed it never wanted to get involved in the weekly Hollywood competition based on ratings or box office receipts.
Netflix would not confirm that the data in its earnings reports has amounted to official most-watched lists for its movies and shows. “We select a few titles to highlight each quarter, but they are not meant to be a comprehensive list of top performers,” a Netflix spokesman said.