Netflix is shifting the way it ranks its most popular titles

Netflix will change the public-facing metrics it uses to rank the most popular titles on its streaming service, the company announced Tuesday.

In the past, the company has ranked titles based on the completion of at least the first two minutes of a film or TV show in its first 28 days on the service. More recently, however, the company has released rankings based on the total number of hours a movie or series is viewed — a metric it will shift to moving forward beginning later this year, the company said in a letter to shareholders.

“There is some difference in rankings […] but we think engagement as measured by hours viewed is a slightly better indicator of the overall success of our titles and member satisfaction,” the company said. “It also matches how outside services measure TV viewing and gives proper credit to rewatching.”

The change will not only shift one of its key public ranking systems from viewers to hours viewed but should, in theory, make its rankings a little easier to understand. While the company does track things like completion of its titles internally, the 2-minute metric was confusing and had the potential to misrepresent the true success of a series or film (for example, if an account holder watched only the first two minutes but then bailed).

Additionally, the company said, “we will start to release title metrics more regularly outside of our earnings report so our members and the industry can better measure success in the streaming world.” Transparency around streaming figures — and the accuracy with which services track their titles — has been called for by industry figures who say that streaming services aren’t forthright about success metrics, complicating everything from cast and crew payouts to contract negotiations.

Image: Code 2021

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos last month at CodeCon shared rankings of Netflix’s top titles based on both the 2-minute metric and the hours watched metric, and a side-by-side comparison showed that — while overlap was certainly visible — the different metrics changed the title rankings noticeably.

What’s certain is that by many of its metrics, its Korean drama Squid Game has been a massive success on the platform. Citing internal documents, Bloomberg reported last week that the company estimated “89% of people who started the show watched at least 75 minutes (more than one episode), and 66% of viewers, or 87 million people, have finished the series in the first 23 days.”

Last week, the company announced the series had become its biggest ever series at launch. In its shareholders letter on Tuesday, the company revealed that a “mind-boggling” 142 million households globally had tuned into the show, based on its 2-minute metric.

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