Over New Year’s weekend, Netflix sparked a frenzy among media wonks with its surprise statement that more than 45 million accounts had watched its original movie “Bird Box.”
Netflix said that a view counted as watching 70% of the movie, and with accounts often shared by multiple people, the actual viewership would have been higher.
The numbers were the first time Netflix ever revealed specific viewership data.
Now, Nielsen has released its own viewership figures through its SVOD Content Ratings, and at first glance, they appear consistent with Netflix’s figures.
Nielsen says that over the first week of availability, Bird Box’s unduplicated reach was 26 million people, slightly more than half of Netflix’s cited figure.
However, two other factors suggest that Netflix’s stated numbers seem plausible.
Nielsen only measures U.S. viewership, while the majority of Netflix’s subscribers are now outside of the U.S. International viewership would undoubtedly add to the total viewership for the film, which stars Sandra Bullock.
In addition, Nielsen found that viewership for the movie actually increased over the course of the week, with the highest single day of viewing being day eight after release. Nielsen called it “a very atypical event and likely attributable to the extraordinary buzz around the movie.”
The international component, combined with viewership that increased over time, makes Netflix’s 45 million figure seem reasonable and consistent with Nielsen’s 26 million figure. Nielsen found through December 30, two days after the Netflix tweet, viewership had risen to more than 36 million people.
Up until the "Bird Box" numbers were revealed, Netflix had been a black box with regard to ratings. Netflix’s release, combined with Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings, suggest the streaming phenomenon is real — and Netflix’s ability to generate massive viewership in a relatively short period of time is powerful.
Imagine if the company decides to start using that power to deliver advertising messages or sponsorships.