In its letter to shareholders released Tuesday along with its fourth-quarter earnings, Netflix offered what has become its customary sprinkling of select viewership data but also explained a larger change in its methodology.
“As we’ve expanded our original content, we’ve been working on how to best share content highlights that demonstrate popularity,” the letter said. Given that we now have titles with widely varying lengths – from short episodes (e.g. Special at around 15 minutes) to long films (e.g. The Highwaymen at 132 minutes), we believe that reporting households viewing a title based on 70% of a single episode of a series or of an entire film, which we have been doing, makes less sense. We are now reporting on households (accounts) that chose to watch a given title.”
Under the new system, the letter continued, “Short and long titles are treated equally, leveling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length. The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric. For example, 45 million member households chose to watch Our Planet under the new metric vs. 33 million under the prior metric.”
Using the updated approach, the company said it had its best result yet for a first-season original TV series with The Witcher. Through its first four weeks of release, 76 million member households chose to watch the action fantasy.
Another hard-charging Q4 show is You, whose second season was watched by 54 member households. The psychological thriller “originated on U.S. linear TV with a modest audience,” the letter noted.
More than 21 million households watched the third season of The Crown, a gain of 40% from Season 2 over the same initial four weeks. All together, more than 73 million households worldwide have viewed The Crown since its launch.
Film was a significant contributor in the quarter. While it isn’t up for Oscars, as several other Netflix titles are, Michael Bay’s 6 Underground, starring Ryan Reynolds, was watched by 83 million member households in its first four weeks.