Netflix is sucking us into watching Adam Sandler more than ever

Adam Sandler plays an ex-cop and Jennifer Aniston is his wife in Murder Mystery. 

Scott Yamano/Netflix

Netflix lost subscribers in the US for the first time since it began making shows of its own, but that didn’t stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people it is sucking into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than ever). 

Netflix’s subscriber growth took a beating in the last quarter because of price increases and a snoozier release slate before its hit retro sci-fi series Stranger Things came out in July. But that didn’t break Netflix of its new addiction to spilling viewership figures — this time about Murder Mystery, The Perfect Date, Always Be My Maybe and When They See Us, plus other originals. 

Once upon a time, Netflix was famously stingy on the specifics of how many people watched its stuff. The creator of House of Cards — the Netflix show that put its original content efforts on the map — once said the company wouldn’t even share viewership metrics with him. But lately Netflix has loosened up to help it recruit talent and drive buzz. 

Netflix used to woo Hollywood’s big names with its giant checkbook, but as companies like Apple, Amazon and Disney pour money into high-end originals for their own streaming services, Netflix has needed additional enticements. Bragging about eye-popping audience numbers gives talent another consideration. With more than 150 million subscribers, Netflix distribution is unmatched in streaming, so it has become more chatty about viewership stats. 

Also, a lot of us are sheeple and we’ll just watch the same thing all the other binge zombies are watching. Netflix’s top content executive Ted Sarandos said Wednesday that Netflix is releasing these stats publicly and testing features like a Top Ten list of UK viewership “mostly because people use a lot of different inputs to figure out what they want to see, and popularity is definitely one of them.” 

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Still, Netflix’s viewership numbers all need disclaimers. For one, none of Netflix’s stats are independently verified or supported by detailed data from the company. Traditional media companies have their box office performance independently monitored and are at the mercy of Nielsen ratings as the barometer for TV shows. Netflix can cherrypick highlights, without much outside data to compare. 

Also, Netflix’s viewership statistics aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons to… well, to just about anything. It’s tempting to compare Netflix’s data about member households to Nielsen audience numbers for TV or box-office figures for movies. Don’t do it. They don’t sync. Just…don’t.

Bring on the ‘hits’

Stranger Things has been Netflix’s most record-breaking original of late.  

To put that in context, Stranger Things got nearly as much viewership in four days that Bird Box — Netflix last big brag about audience — generated in seven. 

But the company had plenty of other nuggets to share about other projects. All the following figures are for the titles’ first four weeks after release: 

  • Murder Mystery, its movie starring comedian Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as a couple whose European vacation is ruined when they’re blamed for a billionaire’s murder on a yacht, is the most watched Sandler Netflix original film yet. More than 73 million account households watched it. (Bird Box still has it beat but barely: The post-apocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock was watched by more than 80 million households in the first four weeks.)
  • Teen rom-com The Perfect Date, a vehicle for Netflix-minted heart-throb Noah Centineo, drew in 48 million households. 
  • Our Planet, a BBC-style nature documentary, was the company’s most-watched original docu-series at 33 million households. 
  • Closely following that, Always Be My Maybe, a comedy film with Ali Wong and Randall Park was viewed by 32 million households.
  • Dead to Me, a dramedy, hit 30 million households. 
  • When They See Us, a buzzy limited series from creator Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five case of wrongful imprisonment, was watched by 25 million households in its first four weeks.

Netflix counts a movie view after an account watches 70 percent of the full runtime. For TV shows, an account needs to watch 70 percent of a single episode.

Here are previous viewerships stats Netflix has released (or projected) about the first four weeks of release for other titles: 

  • Bird Box — watched by more than 80 million households 
  • You, a stalker thriller series that originally aired on Lifetime in the fall — estimated to surpass 40 million homes
  • Sex Education, a British teen dramedy show — estimated to surpass 40 million households
  • Bodyguard, a BBC-World Productions series that has already aired in the UK and won a best actor Golden Globe for drama earlier this month — 23 million member households
  • Spanish-language teen drama series Élite — more than 20 million member households 
  • Italian original series Baby — more than 10 million homes
  • The Protector, Netflix’s first Turkish original series — more than 10 million households

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