Netflix has historically been notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to revealing viewer numbers with the press and even with the people producing its original content. That’s been slowly changing in recent months, and it announced earlier this week that it would be testing a top-10 most viewed list for UK viewers, providing a bit of a glimpse into what its subscribers are watching.
Netflix says (via Variety) that it’s testing a top-10 feature in the UK that will reveal what’s popular on its platform. The initial list for its overall most-watched programs in April has David Attenborough’s Our Planet as the most-viewed, followed by The Perfect Date, The Highway Man, The Silence, Black Summer, After Life, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and You vs. Wild.
The company also breaks down top-10s for documentaries (part one, part two), film (part one, part two), non-English language shows, reality shows, and English-language TV shows. The company said it’ll start releasing the lists each week on Twitter starting next Wednesday, and that some users will see the list on Netflix directly. Variety speculates that it’ll appear as a row on the main screen.
Netflix says that it determines what’s on the lists by looking “at the most-watched individual season of a show, film or special (regardless of when it launched),” and defines “watched” as finishing at least 70 percent of an episode or film. Netflix notes that it’s a test that might change over time, depending on how useful people find it. If people do find it useful (or presumably if Netflix finds that the list has a positive effect on what people are watching), it could eventually be brought to other markets around the world.
The television industry lives and dies on viewership, which is studied by third-parties like Nielsen Media Research or by a network’s in-house research team. Those teams release ratings numbers, which provide a snapshot into how many people are watching any given television program at any given time. Streaming companies like Netflix have some additional advantages though, because they can gather a lot of data directly from the viewing habits of their subscribers.
The company has begun revealing some hints of what it says its subscribers are watching — back in December, it reported that more than 45 million accounts watched at least 70 percent of its horror film Bird Box, and in January, it revealed some additional statistics on view data. Those are all self-reported numbers, and there’s no way to tell if they’re accurate, although Nielsen — which has been tracking Netflix data — backed up Netflix’s claims that tens of millions of people watched Bird Box. Last month, Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said that the company wants to be more transparent, and that it will begin to “more specific and granular data and reporting,” to producers, subscribers, and eventually, to the press.
This top-10 list feature seems to be part of that roadmap, but there are caveats — it’s all self-reported numbers by Netflix, and unlike Nielsen’s ratings, it doesn’t indicate how many people are actually watching any given program. Still, if you take the numbers at face value, it should provide a bit of an insight into what people are watching, week-to-week.