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Netflix announces staggering viewership for ‘You’—but many are skeptical
You has blown up on Netflix.
After a relatively unimpressive run on Lifetime, Netflix announced in its end of 2018 quarterly report that You is on track to be viewed “by over 40 million member households” in its first four weeks on the streaming platform.
Compared to the 1.1 million viewers who enjoyed You during its run on cable, Netflix’s numbers are extremely impressive. The thriller starring Penn Badgley and Elizabeth Lail blew up when it reached the streaming platform. For weeks it’s been one of the primary shows discussed on the internet. Even Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown has been talking about it.
Despite its obvious popularity, people are questioning the validity of Netflix’s released quarterly numbers. For one, the numbers are projections rather than hard data. For Netflix, anyone who finishes at least 70 percent of a single episode or 70 percent of a film counts as a “viewer.” This means that someone who made it through just a few episodes of You would count as a viewer, even if they didn’t stick with it. The streaming giant is likewise very secretive when it comes to internal data.
They’ve done this with Elite and Sex Education. Impressive figures, but unless they say how many people watched all of the episodes (or for each episode), I’m pretty unconvinced that it nothing more than just easy PR.
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) January 17, 2019
Hey, you know what sucks? Throwing out these numbers and refusing to release any hard data to support it. https://t.co/JwbshF0fsn
— Vikram Murthi (@fauxbeatpoet) January 17, 2019
You wasn’t the only Netflix original to perform well last quarter, according to the report. Unsurprisingly, Bird Box boasted some of the highest viewership. With 80 million projected viewers in its first four weeks, Bird Box is set to double viewership of shows like You and Sex Education.
Again, these numbers are projections and therefore must be taken with a grain of salt. Many people are questioning the decision by Netflix to release select viewership numbers—something it has been resistant to in the past.
“Imagine if studios just told you how much a movie made without any sort of oversight or proof,” RogerEbert.com editor Brian Tallerico wrote.
Imagine if studios just told you how much a movie made without any sort of oversight or proof. Or if we didn’t have public Twitter follower numbers and could just guesstimate our own. You see why these kind of Netflix-released numbers are silly… https://t.co/qCtdB2iItG
— Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico) January 17, 2019
— APsychoBabbles (@apsychobabbles) January 17, 2019
Other shows to perform well enough to make the report include Spanish original Elite, with “over 20 million member households around the world” enjoying it in its first four weeks. The Haunting of Hill House, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Dumplin’ all got shoutouts too, along with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
With the rise of original content, Netflix has been changing up the way it approaches both its audience and its competitors. For now, that means more transparency. Until we start seeing more definitive numbers, however, viewers and studios will have to approach Netflix’s claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.
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Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.