About That New Netflix Record…

This is an except from the June 20, 2019 issue of the Ankler. To get the complete issue and not miss a beat from the newsletter that’s got Hollywood shaking, subscribe here today.

Netflix did it! They beat the record!

Yes, it was its own record, and we’re not completely sure what it’s a record of, but they beat it! A bunch of Netflix viewers watched one of its things! Another ceiling smashed! Bird Box, consider yourself disrupted.

Despite the almost total lack of clarity about what this Murder Mystery milestone means, the trades, as is their custom on such occasions, dutifully hyped the Netflix number in the headline and shoved the caveats somewhere down below

Netflix shareholders say thanks, you guys!

A few things about this:

First, of course, it’s very nice to create your own metrics on some internal scale and choose when and where and what piece of them to parcel out. Imagine if a studio was able to report, not its actual box-office totals but reveal, say, that Men in Black International is Sony’s highest-impact release in several months among certain demographics.

And have the trades turn that into a headline.

And then next weekend give out no numbers at all.

There’s also the question of what these numbers mean. Analyst Rich Greenfield has it from Netflix on the record that these numbers represent homes that watched 70% of the film or more.

Now, I would never accuse Netflix employees of misrepresenting its service’s numbers, because for a public company that would be a clear violation of SEC statutes—a felony! I have no reason to think they’d ever do that.

But to just take that U.S. number—13.37 million accounts watching almost all of a two-hour movie in just a few days, would effectively make it the biggest TV event of the week, excepting the NBA finals, for a movie coming out of nowhere.

That’s way more than watched the biggest non-sports show of the week America’s Got Talent (9 million). More than double the six million who watched 60 Minutes, nearly triple the Bachelorette. I am probably not in the demographic for the Sandler movie (or Got Talent or Bachelorette), but the fact that those shows were on crossed my radar. The NBA finals were unmissable.

Yet the Adam Sandler movie became the biggest TV event without causing a ripple in the social-media landscape.

I wondered if it might just be my bubble, so I reached out to some friends in the social-media world, and all confirmed in their tracking of the landscape, Murder Mystery didn’t enter their radar.

So either there’s some fine print to these numbers . . . or some context here that we’re not getting. Or Netflix viewers are so passive and uninterested in what they are watching that normal 21st Century media behaviors aren’t even triggered. Perhaps Netflix has become just ambient noise in a lot of homes.

Either way, in this new era, buzz is going to be the coin of the realm as the all-important subscription driver.  30 million people watch a movie and it generates zero chatter?  Viewership without buzz = ? You’re like a newspaper, earning clicks without revenue.

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