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Netflix has changed its viewership metric. But why?


Streaming giant Netflix said that it has switched its viewership metric from “hours viewed” to “views.” Perfection in the sector is near-impossible, but the new ranking is certainly fairer.

Until recently, the streaming behemoth guarded the ratings of its shows like the world’s biggest secret. That stance has since changed, and Netflix is now much more transparent in terms of viewership metrics.

The company already ranked its Top 10 shows and movies globally and in various countries or regions. But Netflix was only telling the world how many hours were spent watching a specific piece of content.

Now, the streaming giant has decided to change up the metrics once again and is switching to “views.” This is a calculation based on the number of hours viewed divided by the total run time of the film or episode.

In an updated blog post, Netflix described the move as a “good evolution” and explained that the “views” metric is simply fairer. But why?

The old way disproportionately rewarded longer films and series. For instance, there are 26 almost hour-long episodes of Firefly Lane, a popular soap – but has it really been more culturally relevant and impactful than some limited series like Maidi?

For example, after the metric was changed, Wednesday season one, not Stranger Things season four, is now Netflix’s all-time most-watched show. Also, The Queen’s Gambit is now in fifth place, even though it wasn’t on the list before.

netflix-list
Netflix's list of all-time most popular shows. Courtesy of Netflix.

“We heard feedback that only providing hours viewed on our Top 10 lists was hard to contextualize, so over the last few months we started to share the views for a good number of our titles (i.e. the number of hours viewed divided by the total run time). This proved to be a more relatable metric for many people,” Netflix explained.

The company added that the new metric ensures that longer titles don’t get an advantage and enables third parties “to compare the relative impact of movies and series – despite their different run times.”

Simply put, we all – consumers, creators, and advertisers – understand “views” much better than a gigantic number of “hours viewed.” It’s just easier on the eyes and brain.

It’s also important that Netflix has also extended the qualifying time for its most popular lists from around one month (28 days) to three months (91 days) – a whole quarter.

This is an acknowledgment of the so-called delayed-viewing culture because many people grow into shows or movies slowly. Although, of course, the longer period means nicer numbers for Netflix.

Finally, it’s probably not a coincidence that the Writers Guild of America and other guilds currently on strike are unhappy over the alleged lack of transparency from major streamers, especially Netflix.

On streaming, for example, writers get a fixed amount no matter what happens with the show. But on traditional broadcasts, if a TV show or a movie is a bigger hit, they can earn more from residual payments. Naturally, creators want more balance – so maybe Netflix has heard them.


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