Netflix Plans to Finally Share Accurate Viewing Data to the Public for the First Time

Netflix is finally changing up the way it shares viewership data with the public, which is incredible news for both subscribers and creators. Whenever Netflix chooses to release viewer data for a particular show or movie (which only happens when something is a major success), it reveals how many households have viewed that title. For something to count as a "view" in this metric, a Netflix account simply has to watch two minutes of the movie or show. This has led to a lot of inaccurate and misinterpreted data, with much of the industry calling for a change in order to better understand the decision making over at Netflix. On Tuesday, the company finally announced that change.

During its third quarter financial report, Netflix revealed plans to alter the way it shares viewership information with the public. Instead of reporting the number of households or accounts that watch a certain title, Netflix will now share how many hours were spent watching something. 

"There is some difference in rankings... but we think engagement measured by hours viewed is a slightly better indicator of the overall success of our titles and member satisfaction," Netflix told its shareholders in a letter. "It also matched how outside services measure TV viewing and gives proper credit to rewatching."

This new metric will finally give the public a real idea of how popular a given title is. Squid Game, for example, was viewed by 142 million households in its first month, breaking the record for a Netflix original series launch. That's an objectively high number. But we don't know how much time was actually spent on the series to know just how popular it was with viewers. With only two minutes counted as a view, 142 million people could have turned on Squid Game out of curiosity, only to turn it off before the end of the first episode after losing interest. On the other hand, the majority of those 142 million people could have watched the entire Squid Game series in one or two sittings, with many coming back for repeat viewings. Those two outcomes paint a vastly different picture, despite both being represented by the same number of views.

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The one thing this doesn't change is how and when Netflix chooses to share viewership data. Those numbers aren't public, so we only get to see the real viewership of a title whenever Netflix makes the decision to reveal the data. Since this usually only happens when a title is doing well, it will remain difficult for subscribers to understand why certain shows might be cancelled. That's a problem for another day, though. At least the numbers themselves are getting a lot more specific.