14 DEC 2023

Netflix opens up about consumption. What does that mean?

Netflix announced that it will publish a report titled “What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report” twice a year. This is a comprehensive report of what people watched on Netflix over a six month period.

14 DEC 2023

"The Night Agent"

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Since launching its weekly Top 10 and Most Popular lists in 2021, Netflix has provided more information about what people are watching than any other streamer except YouTube. Now, the platform went even further and announced that it will publish a report titled “What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report” twice a year. This is a comprehensive report of what people watched on Netflix over a six month period.

The report includes hours viewed for every title – original and licensed – watched for over 50,000 hours, the premiere date for any Netflix TV series or film, and whether a title was available globally. In total, this report covers more than 18,000 titles – representing 99% of all viewing on Netflix – and nearly 100 billion hours viewed.

Over 60% of Netflix titles released between January and June 2023 appeared on the platform’s weekly Top 10 lists. So while this report is broader in scope, the trends reflected in it are very similar to those in the Top 10 lists, the company assured. This includes returning series like “Ginny & Georgia,” “Alice in Borderland,” or “The Marked Heart”; new series like “The Night Agent,” “The Diplomat,” or “Beef”; films across every genre like “The Mother,” “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” or “You People”; and non-English stories, which generated 30% of all viewing.

At the same time, the streamer noted the staying power of titles on Netflix, which extends well beyond their premieres. “All Quiet on the Western Front,” for example, debuted in October 2022 and generated 80 million hours viewed between January and June. Moreover, the company highlighted the demand for older, licensed titles.

“When reading the report it is important to remember that 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 is all about whether a movie or TV show thrilled its audience – and the size of that audience relative to the economics of the title. Moreover, to compare between titles it is best to use our weekly Top 10 and Most Popular lists, which take into account run times and premiere dates,”  the company said.

“This is a big step forward for Netflix and our industry. We believe the viewing information in this report – combined with our weekly Top 10 and Most Popular lists – will give creators and our industry deeper insights into our audiences, and what resonates with them,”  Netflix added.

“Netflix has long promised ever-increasing transparency on its viewing metrics. There is some speculation that as the push into the ad market continues, viewing data will be increasingly revealed by streamers to support sales efforts. But Netflix was clear that the move is not aimed at the ad market,”  said Richard Broughton, Executive Director at Ampere Analysis in the researcher’s latest report.

Ampere’s tracking indicates that ad-tier subscribers still represent a small share of Netflix’s subscriber base, and their viewing patterns may of course differ from the global average. More importantly for viewing metrics providers like Nielsen, Netflix noted that data it provides is not designed as a replacement for third party measurement and that the advertising market would still require independent solutions to evaluate ad buying strategies.

Instead, the metric looks very much designed to support Netflix’s global content ambitions. While Netflix already provides more detail on individual titles to their creators, it also wants producers to develop new projects and in particular focus on titles which resonate across its global subscriber base. These are the pieces of content which are most efficient for its business. Providing a global consumption metric helps content creators look beyond their own slate, and develop shows and movies that resonate not just for single Netflix markets, but across the wider global subscriber base.

✔  What does it deliver?

⋅ The dataset will give global visibility on the hours consumed on Netflix by members – with the titles included providing a near-complete view of the hours streamed over six months.
⋅ Far more detail on the longer tail of shows and movies on Netflix, and additional transparency around which titles are (or are not) driving viewing hours.
⋅ How different categories of titles perform globally – e.g. Netflix noted that Non-English titles already account for 30% of viewing, and 45% of viewing of English-language titles rely on subtitles or dubbing.
⋅ Visibility on the significance of licensed vs original content. Netflix revealed that about 55% of viewing is from Netflix Originals and 45% from licensed shows.

✘  What does not it deliver?

⋅ Audience sizes – the metrics focus on viewing hours, not breadth of engagement. How many households or people watched a show is a different matter.
⋅ Local viewing – Netflix was extremely clear that local viewing data will not be revealed, as this represents far too much data to release to competitors.
⋅ Daily, weekly, quarterly, or monthly data – viewing patterns on a more granular basis will not form part of this dataset.
⋅ Episode drop-offs – while there will be some inferences which can be made on viewing time relative to show runtime, it will not explicitly illustrate whether a show’s audience is sticky, or whether they drift off over the course of the episodes or seasons.
⋅ Person X also liked – the metrics included will be consumption figures, but will not tell content creators what similar shows resonated for each individual.

"All-in-all, it will be a fascinating dataset to dive into – and I can guarantee that the Ampere team will be eagerly digesting as soon as possible. It is not a panacea to the streaming viewing question though, and it is very unlikely to herald a new era of open data for the streaming market, but it can be viewed a carefully-judged move by Netflix designed to help suppliers make decisions, to drive efficiencies in the commissioning process, and ultimately create content which resonates globally – supporting Netflix subscriber acquisition and retention,"  Broughton added.