Netflix has taken a groundbreaking step in the streaming industry by releasing extensive viewership data for nearly its entire catalog of original and acquired content. Now, Netflix viewership data reveals what people watch. This first-of-its-kind report, covering January to June 2023, includes viewing time for approximately 18,000 titles, which equates to 99% of Netflix's catalog.
The decision comes amidst heightened demands for transparency in the industry, especially from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) during recent contract negotiations.
Netflix's approach to measuring viewership through "hours viewed" instead of "views" is a pivotal aspect of this report. This metric, albeit insightful, favors longer series, typically dramas, over shorter content. The complexity of assessing a title's success based solely on hours viewed is evident, as it does not account for the number of accounts that completed a title or engaged past the first episode, crucial factors in content evaluation.
Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, commented, “This is probably more information than you need, but I think it creates a better environment for the guilds, for us, for the producers, for creators and for the press.”
The data's timeframe, only covering the first half of 2023, also influences the rankings. Newly released content during this period naturally had a better chance of amassing higher viewership, although older titles making the list, such as "Wednesday," signify notable success.
The report sheds light on Netflix's decisions regarding renewals and cancellations. For example, "Shadow and Bone," despite its impressive 192 million hours viewed in its first 100 days, was canceled due to it translating to around 24 million views globally, a small fraction of Netflix's subscriber base. In contrast, "XO, Kitty" secured a second season with its strong performance relative to production costs.
Sarandos revealed that licensed content represented about 45% of all viewership on Netflix during this period, with originals accounting for the remaining 55%. The most-watched title was "The Night Agent" with 812 million hours viewed. However, the most-viewed licensed title, the K-drama "Crash Course in Romance," came in at No. 16 with nearly 235 million hours viewed.
Notable series from high-profile creators like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy also made significant impacts. For instance, "Queen Charlotte" from the Bridgerton franchise secured half a billion hours viewed in its first two months. Murphy's "Dahmer: Monster — The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" also showcased strong viewership post-debut.
"Stranger Things" continues to demonstrate its lasting appeal, with its fourth season ranking high at No. 61 with 134 million viewing hours. The series' ongoing popularity underscores its status as a benchmark of success in the streaming world.
Netflix's commitment to transparency is further evidenced by their plan to release such reports bi-annually. Michael Jamin, a TV writer and showrunner, highlighted the importance of this move, stating, “The more transparency, the better. It allows writers to better understand the value of our work, and to be compensated for it justly.”
Sarah Pribis, an actor based in New York City, echoed these sentiments, acknowledging that while the report isn't perfect, it's a significant step forward: "It’s about time streamers began releasing more data."
This initiative by Netflix not only offers a clearer picture of what audiences are watching but also sets a new standard for openness in the streaming industry, a change long advocated by creators and industry professionals.