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Netflix is usually known for keeping its viewership numbers shrouded in mystery, but in recent years its been sharing more and more data about its most popular series and the methods by which it arrives at those numbers. The streaming service still keeps most of his data close to the chest, of course, but even this base information about its “ratings” are fascinating.
For years now, there has been a lengthy and legitimate debate about how seriously to take Netflix’s viewership reports since we have to just take their word for it most of the time and the company has some interesting methods of accounting. In the past, Netflix considered any account that streamed 70 percent of a single episode to be a view for its in-house ratings process, and recently, they’ve updated that metric to include any time a viewer “chose to watch” a given title, for even as little as two minutes, as long as it was “long enough to indicate the choice was intentional” — whatever that means.
More recently, in February 2020, they began offering their own Top 10 lists of the most popular series and films at any given day, but it is not clear what numbers they use to arrive at those designations.
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With all of that in mind, if you’re still curious about which shows and films have drawn the most streams according to Netflix, here’s a rundown of all the originals the company has claimed to be mega-successful with its subscribers.
Charlize Theron, The Old GuardPhoto: Aimee Spinks/NETFLIX
The Old Guard
Just one week after its release, Netflix tweeted that its Charlize Theron-led action flick was on track to reach 72 million households in its first four weeks. The movie easily landed in the top 10 most popular Netflix films ever, and its director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, is the first Black female director on the list.
The WilloughbysPhoto: Netflix
This animated family film reportedly racked up 37.6 million household views in its first month on the platform, per Variety.
Chris Hemsworth and Rudhraksh Jaiswal, ExtractionPhoto: Jasin Boland
The Chris Hemsworth action flick became a blockbuster success after hitting the service on April 24. Only two weeks later, Netflix tweeted that Extraction had been viewed by “a projected 90 million households” and was “well on its way to becoming the biggest-ever film premiere” on the streaming service. A sequel is now in the works.
Carole Baskin, Tiger KingPhoto: Netflix
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Tiger King found its way onto the TVs of 34 million cool cats and kittens just in its first 10 days of release, Nielsen reported. Deadline followed up with a report of the show’s first month of viewership, in which Netflix claimed 64 million households around the planet watched the series.
Alvaro Morte, Money HeistPhoto: TAMARA ARRANZ
La Casa de Papel (Money Heist)
Deadline reports that Season 4 of the Spanish language drama La Casa de Papel, also known as Money Heist, was reportedly viewed by 65 million households in its first three weeks. It’s hard to say whether Netflix’s April 2020 numbers were inflated due to social distancing in the U.S. and abroad, but the numbers are impressive, regardless.
Amber and Barnett, Love Is BlindPhoto: Netflix
Love Is Blind
https://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/love-is-blind/1401032/The reality phenomenon that took the internet by storm, per the reporting, brought in 1.5 million clicks for its first five episodes and 1.3 million for episodes 6-9, with the finale episodes securing 829K, all over the course of their premiere weeks.
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Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke, Spenser ConfidentialPhoto: Netflix
https://www.tvguide.com/movies/spenser-confidential/1420595/The people really want more Mark Wahlberg. According to Nielsen, his action-comedy, Spenser Confidential, surged to the most-watched content of the week of its premiere with 5 million views.
The Trials of Gabriel FernandezPhoto: Netflix
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
https://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/the-trials-of-gabriel-fernandez/1414213/Tiger King isn’t the only true crime docuseries that grabbed the attention of Netflix subscribers: Nielsen reported that 2.8 million households watched The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez in its first week.
Freya Allan, The WitcherPhoto: Katalin Vermes
Likely thanks to Netflix’s new definition of a view, The Witcher was 76 million households strong within the first four weeks of release. Toss a coin for that.
Penn Badgley, YOUPhoto: Netflix
YOU Season 2
A lot of people LOVEd (see what we did there) Season 2 of Netflix’s creepy stalker drama YOU — 54 million, in fact, as long as you buy into Netflix’s new accounting system.
Ryan Reynolds, 6 UndergroundPhoto: Christian Black/Netflix
Who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds? Netflix reported in 2020 that 83 million households clicked play on his movie with Michael Bay.
The IrishmanPhoto: Netflix
Martin Scorsese’s film is already a favorite with the critics, despite its three-plus-hour runtime and disorienting de-aging techniques. Apparently, it’s also a favorite with subscribers, because the service reported that over 26 million accounts viewed at least 70 percent of the film during its first seven days on the platform.
*pours glass of wine*
My friends, I’ve got some news from the big guy at the top: THE IRISHMAN was watched by 26,404,081 accounts globally – within its first 7 days on Netflix. pic.twitter.com/abVV993CWS
— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) December 10, 2019
Aaron Paul, El Camino: A Breaking Bad MoviePhoto: Ben Rothstein / Netflix
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Breaking Bad might have topped out at around 6 million viewers at the height of its on-air popularity, but there were a lot more people revving their engines to see its theatrical-length epilogue, El Camino. The film, which finally gave some closure to the story of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the events of Breaking Bad, notched more than 25 million views in its first week of release, according to Netflix.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was watched by 25,734,392 households in its first seven days pic.twitter.com/FDyPlYc8YO
— Netflix US (@netflix) October 23, 2019
Winona Ryder, Stranger Things 3Photo: Netflix
Stranger Things 3
Less than a week after its Fourth of July debut, Netflix revealed that the third season of Stranger Things had already claimed a viewership record with the streaming service, with 40.7 million households watching, according to its in-house calculations. Perhaps more impressive than that, Netflix also claimed that 18.2 million subscribers had already gotten through all eight episodes of the new season in its first four days alone. Over time, Stranger Things 3‘s audience count continued to expand, and it raked in a whopping 64 million views by October, making it the most-watched season of a Netflix original so far.
#StrangerThings Season 3 was the most watched season to date, with 64 million member households watching in its first four weeks pic.twitter.com/C1BKMThIpj
— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) October 16, 2019
Merritt Wever, Toni Collette; UnbelievablePhoto: Beth Dubber/Netflix
Netflix’s limited series, inspired by the true story of a victim of a serial rapist who was overlooked by the police until two intrepid detectives started noticing a pattern between reports, was a massive success. Not only did it get the tacit endorsement of Elizabeth Warren, but it notched 32 million household views in its first month.
The critically-acclaimed limited series Unbelievable has been watched by 32 million member households in its first 28 days pic.twitter.com/axZcCdYyGu
— Netflix US (@netflix) October 16, 2019
Yael Stone, Kate Mulgrew and Natasha Lyonne, Orange Is the New BlackPhoto: JoJo Whilden/Netflix
https://www.tvguide.com/news/unbelievable-review-netflix/Orange Is the New Black
To celebrate the release of the show’s seventh and final season, Netflix revealed that 105 million households tuned in for at least one episode of Orange Is the New Black over the course of its run, making it the service’s most-watched original of all time, according to their metrics.
105m households have watched at least one episode of @OITNB. It's our most-watched original ever. As it returns for its seventh and final season, this is the show's legacy, through the eyes of the fans. pic.twitter.com/ykNXNQsxFC
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) July 26, 2019
Linda Cardellini, Christina Applegate; Dead to MePhoto: Netflix
Dead to Me
Following the (pleasantly) surprising Emmy nomination of lead actress Christina Applegate, Netflix revealed that this snappy dramedy series earned 30 million views within its first month on the streaming service. The series had already been renewed for a second season at the time of that reveal.
Laura Marano and Noah Centineo, The Perfect DatePhoto: Netflix
The Perfect Date
Noah Centineo’s second rom-com for Netflix after To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before might have suffered from a few creative hiccups, but that didn’t stop people from tuning in to see the internet’s boyfriend in action. Netflix revealed in July that the pic earned 48 million views in four weeks.
Always Be My MaybePhoto: Netflix
Always Be My Maybe
Ali Wong and Randall Park’s much-memed romantic comedy was another movie hit for Netflix. The streaming service revealed that the quippy pic brought in 32 million views. It obviously didn’t hurt that Keanu Reeves has been having a moment lately, but it was Wong and Randall’s creative chemistry that made this movie work.
Sadie Sink, Caleb McLaughlin, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, and Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things 3Photo: Netflix
.@Stranger_Things 3 is breaking Netflix records!
40.7 million household accounts have been watching the show since its July 4 global launch – more than any other film or series in its first four days. And 18.2 million have already finished the entire season.
— Netflix US (@netflix) July 8, 2019
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Caleel Harris, When They See UsPhoto: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix
When They See Us
Ava Duvernay’s four-part biopic about the Central Park Five was also a massive success, according to Netflix’s numbers. Duvernay revealed that more than 23 million accounts had streamed her miniseries about one of America’s most notorious criminal injustices.
Imagine believing the world doesn’t care about real stories of black people. It always made me sad. So when Netflix just shared with me that 23M+ accounts worldwide have watched #WhenTheySeeUs, I cried. Our stories matter and can move across the globe. A new truth for a new day. pic.twitter.com/4vgCo0aKR9
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 25, 2019
Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler; Murder MysteryPhoto: Netflix
The latest addition to Adam Sandler’s growing film library at Netflix would have absolutely crushed it at the box office, if the same amount of people who streamed it were willing to pay money to see it in the theater. Netflix revealed that the film, which featured Sandler sharing the screen again with Jennifer Aniston, enjoyed the biggest opening weekend audience ever on the streaming service, with 30.8 million accounts — 13.3 million of which came from North America — tuning in to see the duo’s European misadventures. In July, the streaming service revealed that 73 million views were counted within its first four weeks, making it the most successful installment yet in Netflix’s partnership with Sandler.
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30,869,863 accounts watched Murder Mystery in its first 3 days – the biggest opening weekend ever for a Netflix Film. 13,374,914 accounts in the US and Canada, and 17,494,949 more worldwide.
— Netflix Is A Joke (@NetflixIsAJoke) June 18, 2019
The Umbrella AcademyPhoto: Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix
The Umbrella Academy
Netflix’s series adaptation of the Gerard Way comics racked up a whopping 45 million in the first four weeks, according to an April quarterly call from Netflix’s executives. The series had already been renewed for a second season when the streaming service shared those staggering figures.
Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam, and Ben Affleck, Triple FrontierPhoto: Netflix, Courtesy of Netflix
This action film boasted a lot of A-listers on its roster — including Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, Garret Hedlund, and Oscar Isaac — and cost so much money to produce (a whopping $115 million) that Netflix is reportedly changing its entire originals spending model as a result of it. However, to hear Ted Sarandos talk, the film was a whopping success for the streaming service. After execs initially boasted that the film drew 52 million views in the first four weeks, Sarandos later upped the number 62 million total viewers (and counting) as of early July.
Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner, The HighwaymenPhoto: Merrick Morton/Netflix
As of April, the drama starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the duo which took down Bonnie and Clyde was already on track to garner 40 million views in its first month.
Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened
Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened
Despite Hulu dropping its own Fyre Festival documentary before Netflix’s already-announced premiere date, Netflix’s version of the story still got plenty of attention. According to Netflix executives, 20 million people savored in the schadenfreude of seeing this shindig flame out within the first month of its release.
Our PlanetPhoto: Netflix
This critically important environmental docu-series was on track to earn 40 million views in its first month of release alone, according to Netflix’s quarterly shareholder roll-out in April 2019.
Penn Badgley, YOUPhoto: Netflix
After YOU moved from its original home at Lifetime to the streaming service, Netflix revealed that over 40 million households had tuned in to find out what all that creepy Joe Goldberg fascination was about in the first four weeks of Season 1’s arrival to the stream scene.
Joe isn't the only one watching: @YouNetflix is on track to be viewed by more than 40 million members in its first four weeks on Netflix! pic.twitter.com/W4jZ3nYTdQ
— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) January 17, 2019
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Emma Mackey and Asa Butterfield, Sex EducationPhoto: Sam Taylor/Netflix
With numbers like these, it’s no wonder Netflix so quickly ordered a second season of this coming-of-age series. Per Netflix, 40 million accounts were on track to stream the edgy YA series within its first month — although, as some critics quickly pointed out, those numbers came within days of the series’ debut, which puts an asterisk next to that estimation.
#SexEducation has come out with a bang – the smart and emotional series is on pace to be watched by over 40 million accounts over its first month pic.twitter.com/TAsklhTSQH
— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) January 17, 2019
ElitePhoto: Manuel Fernandez-Valdes/Netflix
Another series that got an official viewership boast from Netflix was the Spanish-language teen drama series Elite, which Netflix said was viewed by 20 million people in its first four weeks on the service. The series had already been renewed for a second season by the time Netflix shared those numbers.
#Elite is a true global phenomenon. The Spanish language original attracted more than 20 million households during its first four weeks on service! pic.twitter.com/FwrRT6gqyh
— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) January 17, 2019
Sandra Bullock, Bird Box
This Sandra Bullock-led thriller gave a lot of audiences a good winter holiday scare, as Netflix claimed that more than 45 million accounts tuned in within the first week to see what was causing all the blindfolded Bird Box challenge commotion online. If there were any doubts that Netflix’s claim was legitimate, Nielsen was able to provide some supporting data, although its estimate was that 26 million viewers had seen the film in the first seven days.
Took off my blindfold this morning to discover that 45,037,125 Netflix accounts have already watched Bird Box – best first 7 days ever for a Netflix film! pic.twitter.com/uorU3cSzHR
— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) December 28, 2018
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)
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