Netflix is a VOD service that prides itself on data. From its meticulous tagging of every sub-plot and pseudo-genre you could imagine to its personalised recommendations based on ratings and viewing behaviour, one could argue it’s a statistics company first and a streaming service second.
While Netflix likes numbers, though, it doesn’t like to share them: the company is famously tight-lipped about what gets watched by its members. Netflix ratings are, it seems, destined to remain secret.
Until now – sort of.
Third parties have long tried to calculate the performance of different series and films.
In 2013, Procera Networks worked with an anonymous broadband provider to determine the popularity of House of Cards, the site’s first original programme. It suggested that roughly one-quarter of users who watched the first episode continued to watch all 13 episodes, while just over 2 per cent of Netflix subscribers around the world watched Episode 1 on its opening weekend.
Netflix has since taken step to avoid such measurements, says Variety, which has exclusively published new figures from Luth Research. The San Diego-based company took an old-school approach to the new-age problem by assembling a panel of 2,500 Netflix users and asking them what they watch.
10.7 per cent of subscribers are estimated to have watched at least one episode of Daredevil, the first in a string of Marvel series produced with Netflix, within 11 days of its release. Out of its 40.9 million US members, that equates to 4.4 million users. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt attracted 7.3 per cent of users.
House of Cards, on the other hand, attracted a lower 6.5 per cent of subscribers during its first 30 days of availability, although this was still higher than Bloodline, which was streamed by just 2.4 per cent. (Remember: That small percentage is still the equivalent of an estimated 980,160 viewers.)
The Kevin Spacey-starring political drama, though, was still the most popular show on Netflix that month, with all three seasons attracting 6.4 per cent of subscribers. Season 3 was also binge-viewed more than any other Netflix Original, with almost half of subscribers seeing at least three episodes within 24 hours during that initial 30 day period.
This extrapolated data should obviously be taken with a pinch of salt, especially given that it only takes into account viewers using computers, tablets and smartphones to stream Netflix content, rather than those tuning in on TVs. Nonetheless, it provides an insight into otherwise hidden trends: Luth says its “ZQ Intelligence” tool is able to drill down to episode-by-episode viewing habits, as well as cross-reference results with the demographics of its sample. (Becky Wu, senior executive VP, tells Variety that they will also begin analysing Amazon Prime this year.)
That is, unless Netflix has a change of heart first: CEO Reed Hastings gave the company’s first indications of ratings data during his report on the first quarter of 2015.
Members streamed 10 billion hours of original content in the first three months of 2015, the company confirmed. That works out as an average of 160 hours per member over the quarter: almost a week’s worth of TV over three months, or 53 hours (just over 2 days) per month.
“Our original series, documentaries and comedy specials are being enthusiastically received, and member engagement is at an all-time high,” said Hastings.
House of Cards’ third season enjoyed the show’s “biggest launch yet in terms of viewers”, he said, which matches up with the binge-viewing statistics found above. Hastings also said that Bloddline was “on par with the first seasons” of Netflix’s other big dramas, which may contradict Luth’s data.
One thing that is no secret, though, is that Netflix is pleased with how each one has performed: Unbreakable, House of Cards, Bloodline and Daredevil have already been renewed for new seasons next year.