According to Netflix, "The Witcher," a fantasy series starring Henry Cavill, is pacing to be its biggest first-season original TV series ever.
In reference to Netflix's shareholder letter of Q4 for the fiscal year of 2019, in its first four weeks of the availability of "The Witcher", 76 million "member households chose to watch." The letter also says that "The Witcher" showed how Netflix content can "penetrate the global zeitgeist," because it helped cause an increase in sales for The Witcher books, and video games, since the series' release. Of course, Netflix also can't help but mention that the song "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" has been stuck in everyone's heads for a month now.
"As a testament to how our hit content can penetrate the global zeitgeist and influence popular culture, the show's launch drove up sales of 'The Witcher' books and games around the world, and spawned a viral musical hit," the company said in its Q4 shareholder letter.
Based on the best-selling fantasy book series, "The Witcher" tells the tale of Geralt of Rivia – a solitary monster hunter who struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove wicked than beasts. But when destiny hurtles him towards a powerful sorceress, and a young princess with a dangerous secret, the three must learn to navigate the increasingly volatile Continent together.
While 76 million is certainly an impressive number, it's worth noting that this latest shareholder letter also redefines the way Netflix calculates viewers. In the old metric, Netflix used to count viewers as anyone who watched at least 70 per cent of one episode or of an entire film. However, because Netflix content varies in length, both from show to show and from shows to movies, it has decided now to count based on how many "households" – this means accounts which chose to watch a title.
The letter specifies that "chose" includes anyone who watched at least two minutes of any piece of a content on Netflix. The shareholder letter compares this new metric to the tracking used by platforms like YouTube, with view counts, or the New York Times, which tracks when articles on the website are opened.
Netflix is also careful to mention that this new system of reporting means that the viewership numbers will go up. In the letter, Netflix gives the example of "Our Planet" which had 45 million households who chose to watch it, versus the 33 million that watched under the previous metric. This leads to an increase, says Netflix, of about 35 per cent higher ratings.
Under this new metric, Netflix also reported the ratings for several other shows and movies that have premiered over the last quarter. Michael Bay's explosive, globe-trotting action movie "6 Underground", which stars Ryan Reynolds, had 83 million households choose to watch it over its first four weeks. Meanwhile, Netflix estimates that 54 million households will choose to watch the second season of "You" in its first four weeks, while 21 million chose to watch "The Crown" season 3 – 40 per cent more from season 2.
Netflix also notes that it received 24 Academy Awards for eight different films, more than any other single studio. But while it recognises the awards promises of movies like "The Irishman", "Marriage Story", and "The Two Popes", it doesn't give specific numbers for any of them, outside of mentioning that the films were "popular with our members."
Netflix has always been more likely to report numbers if a show or movie is a huge hit. While this new metric will let Netflix report higher numbers than it previously did, it still isn't particularly open about viewership (the metric itself is explained in a footnote of the shareholders letter). But perhaps with the new metrics, the streaming giant will more frequently report on its more modest successes like "The Crown", alongside shows like "The Witcher" that top its charts.