Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers a la traditional television ratings.
That makes sense, of course; Netflix doesn’t follow the traditional television advertising model, so there’s no need for them to divulge internal data like that. However, it does make it difficult to gauge just how popular their shows are relative to their traditional competition. And Netflix is very much in competition, after all, for eyes and Emmys alike.
But with the recent release of Stranger Things 2, it was reasonable to wonder just how many people actually tuned in to check out Netflix’s fall tentpole release. Nielsen has devised a method to estimate Netflix viewer statistics, and they just came out with their best guess as to the numbers.
Those numbers were very big. Via The Hollywood Reporter:
The company released its latest, and most interesting, SVOD measurement to date on Thursday afternoon — citing an audience of 15.8 million viewers, nearly 11 million of them adults 18-49, watching the sophomore premiere episode, “Chapter One,” within three days of its launch. (Eat your undead heart out, Walking Dead.) Both of those numbers, by Nielsen standards, are equivalent to the live-plus-3 ratings data you see from traditional TV.
These numbers are not authenticated by Netlfix, which has kept mum on the subject, and don’t yet include mobile. But they do paint the most vivid picture yet of who’s watching the streamer’s biggest pop culture hit. Nielsen also says that 361,000 subscribers streamed the entire nine-episode season within 24 hours of its release. “Our approach is using the exact same framework and methodology that we do for all of television,” Brian Fuhrer, senior vp product leadership at Nielsen, recently told THR. “You can put these Netflix and broadcast numbers right next to one another and understand the relationship.”
Those are some very strong results. As a comparison, that 15.8 million number would have put Stranger Things 2 top-rated show on television squarely in the discussion for last week, with the World Series and NCIS, among others.
Nielsen’s binge estimation is also fascinating; that’s a major element of Netflix’s overall strategy, after all. Amazon has moved into releasing new original programming on a weekly, episodic basis, but Netflix continues to post everything at once. This can, of course, have a marked effect on creative choices; shows like Stranger Things 2 end up more serialized than they might otherwise be, as the showrunners know at least a certain percentage of viewership is going to be moving from one episode right into the next.
However, it appears that there are still plenty of people who pace themselves, as Nielsen’s estimations for earlier episodes in the season were higher than for the later episodes:
“Chapter Two” — 13.7 million viewers; 9.6 million people 18-49
“Chapter Three” — 11.6 million viewers; 8.1 million viewers 18-49
“Chapter Four” — 9.3 million viewers; 6.6 million viewers 18-49
“Chapter Five” — 8 million viewers; 5.6 million viewers 18-49
“Chapter Six” — 6.4 million viewers; 4.5 million viewers 18-49
“Chapter Seven” — 5.3 million viewers; 3.7 million viewers 18-49
“Chapter Eight” — 4.9 million viewers; 3.4 million viewers 18-49
“Chapter Nine” — 4.6 million viewers; 3.2 million viewers 18-49
That’s a fairly standard progression, and it’s fascinating to think about, although again, Netflix probably doesn’t care all that much. They know how many people watch which shows, information they use to set production budgets, renew or cancel different series, and greenlight or pass on future shows or content with similar traits to things they’ve already done. Could Netflix eventually add advertising? Perhaps, although that would likely involve a creation of a new price tier, and so far (as with the recent rate hikes) Netflix has seemed more interested in pushing their base prices up than anything else.
Anyway, in the end, a lot of people tuned in for a very good show, and that’s good news for the world of film and television.