netflix's biggest show

Bridgerton, the Regency-era romance from Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal producer Shonda Rhimes, has beaten Henry Cavill’s The Witcher to become Netflix’s biggest show.

According to the streamer, a record 82 million households watched the series in its first 28 days, handily beating The Witcher‘s 76 million views during its own first 28 days. And while the show is clearly a big deal, Netflix’s definition of a “view” is somewhat controversial and might paint an inaccurate picture about how many people actually watched the show.

According to a Netflix press release, “A record 82 million households around the world chose to watch Bridgerton in its first 28 days. And the show has made the top 10 in every country except Japan – hitting number one in 83 countries including the US, UK, Brazil, France, India and South Africa. Indeed, the success of Bridgerton propelled the books into The New York Times best seller lists for the first time, and 18 years after they were first published.”

After the first ten days of release, Netflix predicted that 63 million people would have watched Bridgerton by this point, and the fact that the number is closer to 82 million suggests that the show has picked up significant steam with newcomers in recent days. And Deadline reports that “Bridgerton was watched by 82M of the record 200M Netflix Q4 2020 subscribers, or 41%,” which, on the surface, looks like an extremely impressive statistic.

Netflix has always been extremely stingy about releasing meaningful viewership information, but in 2020, the streamer changed what it counts as a “view” in a pretty drastic way. Previously, Netflix considered any person who streamed at least 70% of an episode or movie as having watched that property. But last year, they switched their internal metric for a view to something far smaller: they define it as when a subscriber “Chose to watch and did watch for at least 2 minutes — long enough to indicate the choice was intentional.” That means that if you watched two minutes and one second of the first episode of Bridgerton and promptly bailed on the series, you’ve been grouped into the 82 million people that Netflix is touting in its new statistics. The same thing happened with the Chris Hemsworth-starring action film Extraction last year – 99 million people supposedly watched that film, but there’s no way to independently verify that data or parse how many people watched the whole thing, so we’re left to take Netflix at their word.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Bridgerton, which I haven’t seen but have heard good things about. But any time Netflix sounds their trumpets with a big claim like this, it’s important to put it all in context and keep the streamer in check a little bit instead of just blindly repeating its talking points.

Bridgerton has already been renewed for season 2.

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