Why Netflix Wants You—and All of Hollywood—to Know That Everyone’s Watching ‘Murder Mystery’

June 21, 2019, 10:00 PM UTC

In an earnings call back in January, Netflix, long a black box of viewer ratings, finally chose to reveal details of how many subscribers view their original content. Now months later, with the release of the streaming giant’s newest original comedy Murder Mystery, Netflix is dropping viewer brags again, this time, perhaps, because it’s got a bonafide hit on its hands.

According to an official Netflix Twitter account, more than 30.8 million Netflix accounts streamed the new movie in three days.

That’s an eye-popping number, even compared to Netflix’s ‘Bird Box,’ which saw 45 million accounts streaming the movie in its first week.

Netflix revealing its viewership information is quite the about-face for the Hollywood maverick. Until recently, Netflix’s view counts and the inner working of its deals have largely been hidden. Many industry watchers have speculated that the service hid its ratings information because subscribers don’t necessarily care about ratings, and Netflix that has no need to prove its popularity to advertisers, since the service has no ads. So why go public with viewership info now?

One reason may be because the company knows it has some heavy-hitters this year. Along with Murder Mystery and Bird Box, the recent release of Ava Duvernay’s movie When They See Us, a documentary about the Central Park Five, is another example of a high-traffic, Netflix-funded project. Like Murder Mystery, Duvernay’s documentary also attracted a lot of eyeballs: When They See Us was the most-streamed series every single day in the U.S. in the two-week period after its release, announced Netflix.

This roster of popular movies can be coupled with Netflix’s desire to stay competitive against the HBO’s, Hulu’s and, soon, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus‘s of the world. Put simply: If Netflix wants to keep attracting big names, the service will have to let the world know it can bring in lots of viewers.

Along with strong numbers, Netflix also hopes its big budgets can attract top talent. During that January investor call, the service promised to increase the amount it spends on original content to nearly $15 billion. For reference, Netflix executives expected to spend $8 billion on content 2018 and ended up spending $8.9 billion, according to Variety.

Moving forward, Netflix can probably afford to splurge a bit more. Statista notes that the company has nearly 149 million subscribers and they each pay a least $9 or more each month to use the service. That accounts for $1.3 billion in revenue each month.

But not every film is falling for flush-with-cash Netflix deals. Films like Crazy Rich Asians turned down Netflix, opting to pursue the fanfare associated with a traditional theatrical release, instead of accepting a bigger initial payout for a streaming deal.

That’s why releasing viewership numbers had less to do with “financial metrics” and more to do with “cultural metrics,” as Netflix’s Ted Sarandos said in that January earnings call. Netflix wants to prove that its movies can shine in Hollywood, even if they never actually light up a marquee.