Unpacking Netflix's "Bird Box" Numbers

Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock

While Netflix doesn't release viewing metrics, "Bird Box"'s numbers were surprising enough to have the company share the news. A tweet from the Netflix Film account said.

Barry Jenkins has joined the reported millions of people who tuned in to watch Netflix's "Bird Box" this month.

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It's an impressive figure, certainly, but one that also requires a "Star Wars" scroll-worth of disclaimers, qualifiers and questions - several of them immediately posed by journalists and TV industry rivals, who have been frustrated by the streaming giant's unwillingness to divulge such information. Netflix claimed to have 137.1 million streaming subscribers as of the end of September, which means that nearly one-third of them watched the movie in its first week of release. For instance, could "Bird Box" director Susanne Bier use the 45 million views figure as a bargaining chip for future projects, as The Hollywood Reporter's Rebecca Keegan asked on Twitter? It doesn't say how much of the movie these accounts actually watched.

I'd hope we can assume there's a good faith basis for saying 45 million, but there aren't any more details offered. The memes alone should give you an indication that Bird Box has been resonating strongly with audiences. But it's also important to note that Netflix is counting by accounts. The rom-com became one of the most viewed original films on the platform. "When an account is counted, it 'may include multiple views and viewers but is only counted once'". Now, following some criticism of how they calculate that statistic, Netflix reveals a bit more about their viewer stats. We can take issue with the nitty-gritty numbers, but Bird Box's big debut is an important reminder of the power of Netflix's original content strategy and its straight-to-streaming approach.

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