By Kevin Kelleher
January 18, 2019

Netflix, a video service that has always been tight-fisted about sharing any kind of ratings data on its growing slate of programs, offered up a little more transparency on viewership when it reported its earnings Thursday.

Netflix said in a letter to shareholders detailing its performance during the final three months of 2018 that Bird Box, its wildly popular horror movie starring Sandra Bullock, was streamed in more than 80 million viewing households—”and we are seeing high repeat viewing.” In late December, Netflix said that 45 million accounts had watched the film during its first week. (Netflix defines a “viewing household” as an account that watched at least 70% of a film or a series episode.)

The company also said that two new TV series, You and Sex Education, would both be watched by an estimated 40 million member households during their first four weeks on Netflix. The performance of You was notable given that the show began as a Lifetime series but gained little traction on the pay-TV channel.

The large viewing audiences extended to series outside the U.S. as well. Elite, a Netflix original from Spain, reached 20 million households in its first four weeks. Bodyguard, a popular UK series with international appeal, was streamed in 10 million households over four weeks, as was the Italian series Baby and the Turkish series The Protector.

Netflix also opened up about competition in the letter. Surprisingly, it indicated it sees direct competitors such as Hulu, HBO or even an imminent rival service from Disney as less of a threat than other screentime obsessions like Fortnite and YouTube.

“In the U.S., we earn around 10% of television screen time and less than that of mobile screen time,” Netflix said in its letter. “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO. When YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time. Hulu is small compared to YouTube.”

Following on the success of Bird Box, Netflix is working with other established filmmakers. It recently released an interactive Black Mirror film, Bandersnatch, and the Coen Brothers’ western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. In coming months, it’s planning to release Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and 6 Underground by Michael Bay.

Netflix’s stock fell as much as 4.8% late Thursday after delivering an earnings report that showed revenue slightly short of Wall Street expectations, higher than expected net income, and new subscribers joining the streaming-video service at a healthy clip.

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