Netflix releases detailed global viewership data for every show

In a first for any streaming service, Netflix has disclosed all available viewing data for every title on its roster. The streamer says these reports will be regular.

It turns out The Night Agent was the most-watched title globally in the first half of 2023, generating around 812 million hours of viewing. Season two of the family drama Ginny & Georgia and the South Korean series The Glory occupy second and third places, respectively.

Sure, these are Netflix’s own metrics – the streamer provides millions of hours watched, as opposed to universally recognized Nielsen ratings where average audience numbers are calculated.

The list of more than 18,000 movies and shows will be updated every six months, and the series are broken down by season.

This is also why the list called “What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report” might not be the best way to compare titles – they have different running times and number of episodes, and quite a few films and shows are not available globally.

Still, this is the first time that Netflix has offered such a detailed peek at what is and what isn’t watched on the platform. The firm’s co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, said during a conference call that this was the data Netflix uses to run the business.

The novelty follows – and was probably born out of – a months-long fight between Hollywood labor unions and major studios. Writers and actors finally won more compensation for their work in streaming, and their pay depends in part on greater disclosure of viewer data by services like Netflix.

Ironically, Hollywood initially appreciated not being subject to the Nielsen audience ratings. But more recently, writers and producers have criticized Netflix for allegedly hiding audience data to avoid paying more for its programs, especially the most successful titles.

Weird metrics – or no measurements at all – are still the rule of the day for most other platforms. Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, or Paramount+ rarely reveal exactly how large a show’s audience is.

However, after the Writers Guild of America reached a strike-ending agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the union said that the studios and streamers would have to provide it with hard data.

“The Companies agree to provide the Guild, subject to a confidentiality agreement, the total number of hours streamed, both domestically and internationally, of self-produced high-budget streaming programs (e.g., a Netflix original series). The Guild may share information with the membership in aggregated form,” the WGA said earlier in the year.

The new transparency is important because it will be much harder for streamers to claim that a show has succeeded or tanked when the actual numbers will show otherwise. Or maybe they won’t because the number-crunchers were right in the first place – either way, the data is public now.

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