In its quarterly earnings report unveiled Tuesday, Netflix claimed that The Witcher and 6 Underground — both released in December — have turned out to be among its most popular TV series and movies, respectively. The Henry Cavill-starrer fantasy series was watched by 76 million Netflix subscribers in the first four weeks of release, while the figure for Ryan Reynolds-starrer Michael Bay action film was even higher at 83 million. That would make The Witcher the biggest season 1 for a Netflix show. Meanwhile, You season 2 is on track for 54 million, the animated film Klaus was at 40 million, and The Crown season 3 did 21 million, up 40 percent from season 2. All figures are for the first 28 days post-release.
More importantly, these new figures are based on Netflix’s new methodology, which are looser — though possibly fairer — than previously. While Netflix’s viewership numbers were earlier based on its members watching at least 70 percent of a series’ episode or an entire film, it will now simply base its recordings on members choosing to watch something, which equates to just 2 minutes. That means Netflix ratings are now worth even less. But it thinks that’s “long enough to indicate the choice was intentional”. Netflix justified the change by comparing the new methodology to that of BBC iPlayer in the UK, New York Times’ “most popular” articles, and YouTube view counts.
The problem is that it’s immaterial for Netflix whether you continued watching after 2 minutes or quit because you didn’t enjoy it. While 70 percent of one episode wasn’t also a great metric, 70 percent of a film’s length was quite substantial. If you don’t enjoy something, you likely won’t watch through most of it. At the same time, Netflix points out that its original content now has “widely varying lengths” — from short episodes at around 15 minutes for Special to long films at 132 minutes for The Highwaymen. (A better example would have been The Irishman at 209 minutes, but you get the gist.) Netflix thinks it “makes less sense” to use the old metric, which is why it’s now using the 2-minute mark.