Netflix has changed its definition of “watched”. Previously a view of a program “watched 70 percent of a single episode of a series” but that has changed to anyone who “chose to watch for at least two minutes”.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on January 22, 2020

Netflix, the US media-services provider and production company founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, has added another 8.76 million paying subscribers, the company revealed in its fourth quarter results.

Netflix, which is facing competition from Disney+ and Apple TV+ streaming services and awaiting the competition of WarnerMedia’s HBO Max in May, now has 167 million subscribers globally. It forecasts it will add another 7 million subscribers globally in the first quarter. Disney+ will launch in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Austria and Switzerland on 24 March.

Netflix said its subscription numbers were boosted by strong releases that included a new season of award-winning drama The Crown, Big Mouth, You and new series Rhythm and Flow and two films The Irishman and Marriage Story nominated for Best Picture Oscars. However, its main attraction is shaping to be new fantasy series The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill, with 76 million households watching it in the first four weeks of its release.

Netflix, The Crown, Olivia Colman

Netflix is claiming The Witcher is the most-watched first season in its history. However, it has changed its definition of “watched”. Previously a view of a program “watched 70 percent of a single episode of a series” but that has changed to anyone who “chose to watch for at least two minutes”.

Netflix noted that the two-minute time period is meant to be “long enough to indicate the choice was intentional,” and it says that it follows similar metrics used by BBC’s iPlayer, YouTube, and The New York Times’ measurements of page views. However, it clearly increases viewer numbers, with the acknowledgment that the new two-minute metric is “about 35% higher on average than the prior metric,” reported The Verge.

“We have a big head start in streaming and will work to build on that by focusing on the same thing we have focused on for the past 22 years – pleasing members. We believe if we do that well, Netflix will continue to prosper,” Netflix said in its letter.

“As an example, in Q4, despite the big debut of Disney+ and the launch of Apple TV+, our viewing per membership grew both globally and in the US on a year over year basis, consistent with recent quarters.

“Great content grows engagement among our members, which we believe drives word-of-mouth, improves retention and grows paid memberships.”

Netflix, which is available in over 190 countries, saw its shares rise 1.5% in volatile after-hours trading on Tuesday.