Netflix CEO reveals streaming giant’s most-watched series and films

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos pulled back the curtain on the streaming giant’s closely-kept viewership figures on Monday, offering a rare glimpse at the titles that rank among the company’s most watched TV series and films.

Speaking onstage at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sarandos shared slides revealing Netflix’s most popular series and movies by both the number of accounts that watched them in their first 28 days on the streaming platform, and the numbers of hours that they were watched in that timeframe.

Unsurprisingly, the Shonda Rhimes-produced period drama Bridgerton ranked as Netflix’s most watched series in both metrics. A total of 82 million accounts tuned into the title (for a span of at least two minutes) in the first four weeks that it was available, and for a total duration of 625 million hours watched.

Netflix’s most popular series and films by the number of accounts that watched.
Courtesy of Netflix

Following Bridgerton, part one of Lupin (76 million), season one of The Witcher (76 million), season one of Sex/Life (67 million), and season three of Stranger Things (67 million) were Netflix’s most popular series by the number of accounts that watched them in their first four weeks. By viewing hours, Bridgerton was followed as the most watched by part 4 of Money Heist (619 million hours), season 3 of Stranger Things (582 million hours), season one of The Witcher (541 million hours), and season two of 13 Reasons Why (496 million hours).

Netflix’s most popular series and films by the number of hours viewed.
Courtesy of Netflix

On the film front, the action thriller Extraction and the horror flick Bird Box took the top honors, with the former ranking as most watched by number of accounts (99 million) and the latter viewed for the most hours (282 million hours) over their first four weeks on the streaming platform.

After Extraction, Bird Box (89 million), Spenser Confidential (85 million), 6 Underground (83 million), and Murder Mystery (83 million) drew the most accounts on Netflix. By hours watched, Bird Box was followed by Extraction (231 million hours), The Irishman (215 million hours), The Kissing Booth 2 (209 million hours), and 6 Underground (205 million hours).

The viewership figures were a surprise reveal for a company that has kept its viewership figures notoriously close to the chest. But Sarandos said Netflix is “trying to be more transparent” with its internal metrics, with the goal of giving both its Hollywood talent and the wider market a better idea of the extent to which it drives the cultural “zeitgeist,” he said.

Despite heightened competition from streaming rivals like Disney, Apple, HBO, and Amazon, Sarandos said Netflix maintains an advantage with its more than 200 million subscribers. He also noted that streaming at large is swiftly grabbing market share from traditional broadcast and cable TV in what he described as “an enormous shift.”

“In the U.S. where we’re most penetrated, 25% of the time that you’re watching TV, you’re watching streaming—and 25% of that time, you’re watching Netflix,” Sarandos said. “This is an enormous shift. You can see how difficult it is now for a broadcaster to find an audience on their network, and how hard it is for anyone to break into the zeitgeist.”

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