With the slowing of its subscriber growth, the streaming giant Netflix has now changed its definition of “views” to include a watch time as short as two minutes.
According to MarketWatch, Netflix originally counted a view if the person watched at least 70% of the program, but by lowering that to as short as two minutes, Netflix will be able to increase its reported viewership by 35%.
“The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric,” Netflix executives said in the company’s first quarterly earnings report of 2020. “For example, 45 [million] member households chose to watch ‘Our Planet’ under the new metric vs. 33 [million] under the prior metric.”
That means a simple rollover into the next program if the viewer either fell asleep or went to the bathroom for several minutes could be counted as a view. However, Netflix claims that the two-minute metric can determine if a viewer “chose to watch and did watch for … long enough to indicate the choice was intentional.”
A Netflix spokesman told Market Watch that the metric would better determine a product’s popularity as opposed to viewership. Take, for example, the hit fantasy series “The Witcher,” which the streaming giant said was its “biggest series one TV series ever,” since “76 million member households chose to watch [it].” Netflix compared this model to YouTube and the BBC iPlayer.
“Our new methodology is similar to the BBC iPlayer in their rankings based on ‘requests’ for the title, ‘most popular’ articles on The New York Times, which include those who opened the articles, and YouTube view counts,” the quarterly letter said. “This way, short and long titles are treated equally, leveling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length.”
As reported by Fox News, in response to this radical definition of views, critics on line have unanimously blasted the streaming network for openly inflating its numbers.
“Netflix thinks this is a more fair way to compare content of different lengths. To be fair, everyone has a different viewership metric. Still, two minutes feels terribly short,” Recode senior data reporter Rani Molla tweeted.
Writing at The Hollywood Reporter, Rick Porter argued that Netflix sacrificed “clarity for flashy numbers.”
Netflix’s viewer count strategy has been called into question before, going all the way back to the tail-end of 2018, when the company said that the original film “Bird Box” garnered a whopping 45 million viewers. Skeptics felt the numbers were either inflated or at least not an accurate representation of the exact number of people watching the film from start to finish — with CNN Business arguing that Netflix has no third party verifying the numbers.
FX CEO Jon Landgraf decried this mechanism of counting viewers as a “winner-take-all” mentality in the streaming world.
“What I don’t tend to like about Silicon Valley is how the search ecosystem is Google, the social media ecosystem is Facebook. I don’t think that ‘winner-take-all’ mentality is good for the world. I don’t think it’s good for America,” he said. “One way or the other, the truth will always come out — as it always does.”