The Witcher to break Netflix record for most-watched debut series, but critics aren't so convinced

Henry Cavill TV show is set to overtake Stranger Things, but many are sceptical about what the figures actually mean

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 22 January 2020 10:03
The Witcher trailer

Netflix has revealed viewing figures for some of its biggest releases over the past few months, but critics are not impressed with way they’ve been measured.

Fresh from record-breaking success with original film Murder Mystery, which starred Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, and the third season of Stranger Things – which has become its most successful TV show of all time – the streaming service has been hyping up the stats achieved by new series The Witcher.

The series stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter in a world known as The Continent. According to Netflix bosses, it’s about to become the most-watched first season in the service’s history.

Netflix released the figures in its Q4 shareholder letter, which revealed that 76m households “chose to watch” the series in its first four weeks of availability.

However, it’s important to note that the service picks and chooses which titles it releases stats for, with a view to highlighting its successes – and that it has recently changed how it registers views.

While the service used to count a view when a user streamed at least 70 per cent of a title, it now registers them when any account has watched at least two minutes of a film or TV show. Netflix’s belief is that if someone watches two minutes of something, they have made an intentional choice to keep it on. Autoplay is not taken into account.

Many users have expressed their frustration with this on social media, with one calling the development “troubling”.

Another user called the viewing figure announcements “meaningless”, while one journalist quipped: “I’ve decided to embrace Netflix’s viewing metrics for my writing. Simply glancing at a headline counts as reading the story, right?”

In an attempt to convince people of The Witcher‘s popularity, Netflix also released a photo showing Google interest in other rival shows that were released around a similar time. in December,The Witcher had clearly been more searched for than The Mandalorian, The Morning Show and Jack Ryan.

Other shows to benefit from the way Netflix registers its views are Michael Bay film 6 Underground (83m), You (54m) and The Crown, which it claims has been watched by more than 70m households since the release of season three.

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