Just like a magician that never reveals his tricks, Netflix — the undisputed king of streaming — has long been reticent to reveal its viewership statistics. At least, until now: On Monday, the platform released a list of top-10 rankings of its most popular original shows and movies, sorted by how many hours people watched them in total during the first month of their release. This is the first time Netflix has ever disclosed that type of data for its programming.
The rankings themselves, which Netflix revealed at the Code conference in Los Angeles and which CNET published, provide some surprises — particularly when you stack them up against the company’s former metric of choice, the number of accounts that viewed at least two minutes of a program. When looking at two-minute viewership, for example, Stranger Things’ third season ranks fifth on the platform’s list of most-watched shows, with 67 million accounts viewed.
When sorted by total number of hours viewed, however, the same season rockets up to third on the list — an indicator that fans stuck with the show long-term. On the flip side, the show Lupin — a French mystery series — ranks second when measuring the number of accounts that watched for at least two minutes, but it doesn’t even appear in the top 10 of shows when measuring total hours viewed.
Netflix’s top-10 series, by total hours viewed in the first 28 days:
- Bridgerton, season 1: 625 million hours
- Money Heist, part 4: 619 million hours
- Stranger Things, season 3: 582 million hours
- The Witcher, season 1: 541 million hours
- 13 Reasons Why, season 2: 496 million hours
- 13 Reasons Why, season 1: 476 million hours
- You, season 2: 457 million hours
- Stranger Things, season 2: 427 million hours
- Money Heist, part 3: 426 million hours
- Ginny & Georgia, season 1: 381 million hours
Netflix’s top-10 movies by total hours viewed in the first 28 days:
- Bird Box: 282 million hours
- Extraction: 231 million hours
- The Irishman: 215 million hours
- The Kissing Booth 2: 209 million hours
- 6 Underground: 205 million hours
- Spenser Confidential: 197 million hours
- Enola Holmes: 190 million hours
- Army of the Dead: 187 million hours
- The Old Guard: 186 million hours
- Murder Mystery: 170 million hours
On the movie side, Martin Scorcese-directed The Irishman was number three on the list of movies ranked by total hours viewed, which tells us that either people actually watched The Irishman or that its roughly 430-hour runtime was aggressive enough to significantly pad the stats.
Despite its increasing influence as both a cultural juggernaut and a magnet for subscribers, Netflix has repeatedly signalled that it just really doesn’t care that there’s no good way to measure the success of its original movies or shows.
That reluctance makes sense, in some ways: Not only has the company’s CEO, Reed Hastings, gone on the record to say that he doesn’t believe consumers care at all about viewership stats, the platform also isn’t beholden to advertisers — meaning that there’s no real financial incentive to share that data widely, as traditional networks are forced to do.
Still, the platform has faced significant backlash for its decision not to make viewership statistics public. When Netflix cancelled One Day at a Time, the Norman Lear-adapted sitcom about a Cuban-American family it had debuted in 2017, many were quick to raise concerns about how a lack of readily available viewership data had contributed to the demise of a show that many had considered to be a boon for both Latino and LGBTQ representation on television.
But even for a notoriously buttoned-up platform like Netflix, shifting norms in the streaming industry seem liable to compel them to tip their hand a bit more, particularly if it means increased consumer trust and costs them nothing. As Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said Monday at the Code conference, according to CNET, “We’re trying to be more transparent with the market, with the talent, with everybody.”