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Netflix’s New Math & HBO’s Pivot

HBO will begin licensing content, including Issa Rae’s ‘Insecure,’ to Netflix.
HBO will begin licensing content, including Issa Rae’s ‘Insecure,’ to Netflix. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET
Julia Alexander
June 27, 2023

Last week, Netflix announced a “new” formula for its weekly Top 10 list. Instead of relying on total viewing time, the company will now look at total views—well, this being Netflix, not the exact number of accounts watching a given title per week, but the familiar back-of-the-envelope equivalent that we’ve become accustomed to from the company. Namely, take the total hours watched, divide it by the number of episodes/length of a film, and you arrive at a theoretical number of completed views, not just the total number of hours viewed. The new metric gives theoretical insight into how many accounts watched a title, which analysts have done for years using the bar-napkin estimate that Netflix is now making “official.” 

No, this metric doesn’t account for how many people rewatched a series, or how many gave up halfway through. But in fairness to Netflix, Nielsen isn’t much better at gauging this information. (In fact, few measurement companies are better.) And give credit where it is due: Netflix may have a reputation for opacity, but it is one of the only companies providing any transparency, probably because its volume makes it look good. Netflix’s Top 10 ratings have helped analysts and fans learn more about viewing patterns over the last two years, and this update to the formula will theoretically make our jobs easier.