Netflix Changes The Way It Measures Ratings

Here’s why ‘Stranger Things’ will officially be its biggest show ever.

On the recent season finale of “Saturday Night Live,” Natasha Lyonne was hosting, ostensibly to promote the second season of her buzzy Netflix hit “Russian Doll.” 

But she couldn’t help but poke a little fun, noting she was there to represent two things few people “want to be associated with anymore: Russia and Netflix.”

So yeah, Netflix  (NFLX) – Get Netflix, Inc. Report is having a bad year. 

It’s laid off 2% of its workforce, it lost 200,000 global subscribers in the first quarter of the year, and the company’s stock price has been trading at its lowest levels since 2018.

It’s not all bad news, though. 

The mostly well-received, if on the bloated side, new season of “Stranger Things” has arrived, and it’s already Netflix’s top show.

It’s been speculated by CNET that by the end of the summer, Netflix will officially declare the latest season of the sci-fi series it’s biggest yet. But there’s a big asterix attached to that measurement, one that indicates how Netflix is preparing for the next phase of the company’s history.

Measuring Viewership

Netflix’s all-time Most Popular rankings for its television shows are based on total hours watched. 

This information is then fed into the Netflix Top 10 list, which is updated weekly and has the fourth season of “Stranger Things” at the top, with all the other seasons hitting the top ten as well.

But now Netflix has made a big change. 

Instead of tallying up viewing hours in its first 28 days of release, CNET has reported that for “Stranger Things,” it will measure views over 56 days total, one for the first half of the season and one for the second half. 

So now “Stranger Things” will be measured in how it does for at least half the summer, an advantage no other Netflix show has enjoyed since the Top 10 list debuted last year, as the change was not made until May 10. 

(CNET notes the change was in the fine print, as “Netflix added two sentences to its methodology statement.”)

Netflix has taken a staggered approach to how it’s releasing the latest season of “Stranger Things.” The first seven episodes were released on May 27, and the final two of the season will drop on July 1. Netflix recently took a similar approach to the crime thriller “Ozark.”

While it’s not quite the pivot-back-to-weekly episodes approach many fans and critics have called for, it is a way to extend the social media buzz.

In all, this move is expected to help the latest season of “Stranger Things” leapfrog over two other popular Netflix hits, “Squid Game” and “Bridgerton” to officially become the streamer’s most popular show ever. 


Why Did Netflix Make The Change?

Part of the change is just cosmetic, and a way to remind the media and onlookers that, bad headlines aside, the streaming service still has plenty of hits, thank you very much.

But there’s something bigger at play here. 

After resisting for years, Netflix is now open to advertising, in order to both bulk up its revenue sources and to offer viewers a cheaper price point. In this way, it is following the lead of streamers such as HBO Max and Disney +.

There’s a lot of questions as to how advertising is going to work on Netflix, and presumably there’s a lot the company needs to figure out.

But the way total viewership for its shows will be measured will certainly be a big part in how advertising rates will be set. 

More changes are sure to come. For years Netflix was tight-lipped about how popular its shows were, but it’s becoming more forthcoming in recent years, a trend that will no doubt continue as it pitches itself to advertisers. 

But as noted in the piece, advertisers are going to demand a more uniform way of calculating streaming across platforms, and there’s only so much longer that Netflix can play around with its numbers. 

Dallas Lawrence, the head of communications and brand for Samba TV, a television researcher and ad measurement firm, was quoted in the piece, and she summer up the streamer’s future thusly:

“The buyers will not allow Netflix to grade its own homework,” Lawrence said. 

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