There’s A Reason It’s Called A Data DUMP

Well it’s pretty clear what Netflix thinks of long holiday breaks.  It’s the ideal opportunity for them to make sure the first thing you’re thinking about once someone fortunate enough to be employed isn’t prioritizing their employer or their profession.  And in their quest for something they think is transparency, they’re even catering to a great deal of people who happen to make a living covering them.

How else can one explain yesterday’s timing of the Second Coming of the Second Coming that began with this proclamation on their website:

Today we published our second edition of What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report, capturing Netflix viewership from July to December 2023. This report covers 99% of all viewing on Netflix. 

This report shows: 

The staying power of Netflix stories: We’re building stories that last across almost every genre — with older seasons continuing to delight audiences, especially when a new season premieres.

The strength of Netflix’s storytelling all around the world: Our non-English shows and movies are very popular with audiences — making up nearly a third of all viewing. 

The size of Netflix’s audience, and the depth of their engagement: People watched 90 billion hours of Netflix in the second half of 2023 (and 183B in all of 2023).

The variety and diversity of tastes Netflix serves: Our most watched titles came from a variety of genres, from drama and kids to comedy, action and more. 

And with that, a link to download all of the delicious details that contribute to those claims, this time “synthesized” to roughly one-third the number of lines of data the first edition that was provided just prior to Christmas by our generous and “transparent” Teddy.  (We gave that grandstanding appropriate hubris). This time, he didn’t feel the need to hold a press conference and trot out his obedient data analyst to deliver those talking points with appropriate hauntiness.  Who needs an in-house analyst anyway when you have what appears to be a plurality of DEADLINE’s staff literally giving this team coverage akin to last summer’s strikes or even the myriad of FYC events leading up to their corporate cousin, The Golden Globes?

Within a four-hour span yesterday, the site dropped no less than EIGHT different stories, from FIVE different bylines, about all of their talking points and then some.  Including some actual reporting that pointed out some qualifiers that the generously transparent folks at Netflix felt this time around was not worth discussing with even a pre-selected list of reporters.

We got, in chronological order:

— From Katie Campione:

It’s worth noting that the report splits series by season, which means that longer-running series that may have generated far more viewership won’t show up high in the rankings. Essentially, it puts Netflix’s own original content at more of an advantage, or at least levels the playing field, when it comes to these rankings. Otherwise, if seasons were combined, acquired content would dominate many of the top spots.

Case in point: Suits. Last summer, the legal procedural took the streaming world by storm after landing on Netflix, but Season 1 sits at No. 21 with about 27M views from July to December. 

In reality, all nine seasons (Season 9 was not available in the U.S. on Netflix) tallied around 146M views — easily surpassing Leave the World Behind. This is likely the case in more than one scenario, as Netflix has several popular, long-running series on the platform that generate constant viewership, like Grey’s Anatomy and Cocomelon.

— From Peter White:

Dear Child (Liebes Kind) is a German miniseries that is about to become even more high-profile outside of its local territory. The limited series became the second most-watched title for Netflix over the second half of 2023 as it published its latest tranche of viewing data.

— From uberpro Lynette Rice, in apparent solidarity with Campione’s earlier point:

Young Sheldon is now gone from CBS but he’s finding a whole new set of nerd lovers on Netflix. According to the second edition of What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report, the single-camera comedy that just said its last goodbye on broadcast TV has generated 88M views on the streamer.

— From White once again:

The numbers are in and Beckham and Squid Game: The Challenge have topped the charts in terms of Netflix viewership when it comes to non-scripted titles. The two series, a docuseries and reality competition, were the seventh and 15th most-watched non-scripted shows to debut in the second half of 2023.

— Still more White paper observations:

Netflix released over a dozen stand-up specials in the second half of last year and Matt Rife was the most-watched. Matt Rife: Natural Selection, which was released in November, was watched for 13.5M hours. This was above specials from the likes of Shane Gillis, Tom Segura and Mike Birbiglia.

— Another “investigative” angle from Campione:

Remember when HBO licensed those originals to Netflix last year?  That includes shows like Insecure, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and the rest of the HBO originals that landed on Netflix last July. 

So, how did they do?

It looks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the star of the show, as Ballers tallied 33.5M views across all five seasons — by far the highest of the bunch. Season 1 came in No. 139 on the overall list with just under 11M views alone. Considering the list includes thousands of titles, that’s pretty good.

From the still intrepid  Nellie Andreeva:

(B)efore committing to established, conventional sports franchises like NFL football games and WWE Raw, the streamer tested the waters with stunt-y, made-for-TV sport events, starting with The Netflix Cup on Nov. 14, 2023.  According to Netflix’s second expansive viewership report released today, The Netflix Cup, a golf match featuring drivers and golfers from its docu series Formula 1: Drive to Survive and Full Swing, logged (a) paltry 700,000 views in the second half of 2023.

And last (at least as of early this morning) but not least from Matt Grobar:

(A)nimated features continued to demonstrate a major impact for the streamer. Of the top 100 most viewed titles in the period of review, from July to December 2023, 33 were animated, bringing in a total of 1,087,600,000 views.

That being said, titles licensed from other studios continued to heavily overshadow Netflix originals, in terms of impact. Of the 33 animated titles in the Top 100, five were produced by Netflix.

So yep, we get the point:  Netflix is Netflix as much, if not more, because of the collective workings of a lot of different companies, not just the one they’re looking to cast in the most favorable light.

But even with this kind of group pile-on, an awful lot of questions, particularly ones that might have cropped up during last week’s upfront presentations to advertisers which Netflix hopes will take this kind of data to heart and willingly pay their aggressive CPMs, remain unanswered.

Such as:

What were the distinctions in age, sex, and socioeconomic status between, for example, Netflix originals and acquired content?  Genres?  Types of films (animated vs. live action)?  Types of series (unscripted vs. scripted)?  You know, what Wall Street analysts might be pondering.

How many different people contributed to those views?  Was the example I cited from my own viewing just yesterday atypical or exemplary?  What was the average length of tune-in, and to what degree were these massive numbers inflated by mere sampling?  (Incidentally, that phenomenon is also true of linear programming measured by the likes of Nielsen, so don’t think Netflix is being singled out on this point).

Since we now have two six-months sets of data to play with, how many of those titles, especially more substantative licensed portfolios, held up over time?  Are we to assume that the 11,000-ish shows that didn’t make this list ones that simply didn’t make Netflix’s arbitary cutoff of 100,000 views over six months, or did the service cut bait completely with the underperformers?

Unlike an uncomfortable majority of its competitors, Netflix has both the actual data and a substantial enough workforce tasked with analyzing it to actually answer those kind of questions.  And more.   And given they’ve had five months between releases, they certainly had more than enough to prepare answers, or at least additional bullet points beyond those their website and the Deadline team offered up.

And trust me, they’re coming.  Analyses from everyone from THE ANKLER’s Entertainment Strategy Guy to ESNAP’s Evan Shapiro to staffers at other publications who contrasted Netflix’s findings to their own proprietary statistics followed up for several weeks beyond the first installment.  Notwithstanding the fact that all of this data is by now largely outdated and hardly exemplary.

I mean, come on Nellie, do we think for a second that anyone is having buyer’s remorse about those Christmas day NFL games because a made-for-TV golf event barely cracked this list?

But this is what happens when you feed chum to a school of starving fish when they have the determination and enough spare hours to both recrunch the data they did receive and start to muse about how much more they still desire.

Unless, of course, those kind of answers wouldn’t fit the narrative that Netflix desires.  Besides, at least from my experience, that’s what competitors do.  Not purportedly unbiased journalists or consultants.

So hey, you insights specialists that still remain at the likes of Prime Video, Apple or even the Luddites of linear-driven multiplatform entities.  You might want to cut short your travel plans or how long you’re gonna devote to your holiday barbecue.  Teddy Transparent has once again put you on the defensive and on the clock.

And if you do need any help, there’s plenty of us out there (a few more after yesterday) willing to offer it.  My dance card is open as of Tuesday.  Sorry, I’m already working on something else this weekend.

Until next time…


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