Netflix releases huge amounts of data on what’s been watched, for how long

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In a big step forward for data transparency, the leading streaming platform Netflix releases total hours of viewing time for everything on its service.

One of the major criticisms of Netflix and other Silicon Valley streaming platforms over the past few years has centred upon the company’s reluctance to play nice and share data with others.

Big Tech has always been renowned for data secrecy but as it has increasingly moved into the entertainment sector, that refusal to reveal information has led to conflict with the creative community who are used to seeing viewing numbers as a means of determining a film or TV series’ success, not to mention that it’s also vital in helping creators to put a dollar-figure on any subsequent work that they create.

The battle for increased data transparency was one of the key areas being contested throughout this year’s strikes, with Netflix’s refusal to share numbers creating disputes that Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos wants to avoid in the future, according to a Q&A he did to announce this rather ground-breaking moment.

According to Sarandos, “It [not releasing viewing figures] created an atmosphere of mistrust with producers and creators,” he said, also adding: “This is on the continuum of transparency as streaming has become more and more mainstream.”

Netflix what we watched chart

The numbers that Netflix has released cover the first half of 2023 and simply show the hours watched for almost everything on the platform, as long as it has been viewed for more than 50,000 hours.

The company was also keen to point out that it is only one metric and to ‘compare between titles it’s best to use’ the ‘weekly Top 10’ and ‘Most Popular lists’ which feature on the platform, as they take into account run times and premiere dates, additional data that this report does not.

So what do we learn?

Between January and June of this year, The Night Agent was the most viewed TV show on Netflix with a whopping 812m hours of views. Down in 4th place is Tim Burton’s Wednesday, although remember that the show launched back in 2022 so this report wouldn’t have caught its first couple of months where viewership would have presumably been at its highest.

As far as films go, you have to scroll down to 14th place to see the first film on the service, that being the Jennifer Lopez movie, The Mother which clocks in with almost a quarter of a billion hours of views. Idris Elba’s Luther spin-off film is close behind.

The list is also useful for seeing what kinds of licensed films haven’t landed massively with audiences: The Lobster, The Machinist and the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven all sit at the floor-level 100,000 hours meaning their viewed hours are somewhere between 50-100,000.

Still, the company was keen to point out in its report summary that this does not mean a film or show aren’t successful, stating: ‘Success on Netflix comes in all shapes and sizes, and is not determined by hours viewed alone. We have enormously successful movies and TV shows with both lower and higher hours viewed. It’s all about whether a movie or TV show thrilled its audience – and the size of that audience relative to the economics of the title.’ Certainly, a film like The Lobster isn’t designed to create huge audience numbers both because of its age and its less mainstream style.

You can see the Netflix summary and download the actual report to pore over by clicking here.

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