You can learn a lot about a company from the data it discloses. Netflix, for example, reported in January that in just four weeks 76 million households “chose to watch” their original fantasy series The Witcher. It then explained that “chose to watch” had a precise definition: One or more people in the member-household watched for at least 2 minutes, which is “long enough to indicate the choice was intentional.”
Full disclosure, I’m a Netflix subscriber and, yes, I’m among the millions who chose to watch The Witcher. It was intentional, I didn’t sit on my remote accidentally. Truth be told, I liked it. Back in the day, I’d have given it a good star rating – but Netflix doesn’t use that metric anymore. They ultimately concluded that the star ratings didn’t accurately reflect whether viewers were actually enjoying their content.
The logic behind Netflix’s “chose to watch” metric is similar. You see, they previously reported viewership by number of ‘watchers’ – a category of “households that watch[ed] 70% of a film or single episode of a series.” Netflix determined, however, that this didn’t accurately reflect their content’s popularity. And, so, just as the show’s titular Witcher isn’t a witch someone who chooses to watch isn’t a watcher.
More specifically, the technical reason Netflix gave for ditching its ‘watcher’ metric, with its 70% viewing threshold, was that it put longer duration content at a disadvantage. That seems fairly defensible. After all, it takes a lot less time to watch 70% of a 22-minute sitcom – let alone a 15 second TikTok video – than a 3+ hour feature film such as The Irishman. It is, they said, about “leveling the playing field.”
Now, a skeptic might say this looks like a brazen attempt to inflate their numbers. Yet, to their credit, Netflix provided an exchange rate of sorts by openly acknowledging the new metric would increase viewership by 35% on average. Of course, if people chose not to do the conversion and those 35% larger numbers generate buzz and drive up interest that is presumably a calculated risk Netflix is prepared to take.
Therein lies the truth at the heart of this new metric. We join Netflix because it has lots of content, including original content such as The Witcher, we intend to watch. Do any of us get through all the shows we intend to? No. Does that really matter to Netflix? I suspect not. As long as there are shows we intend to watch, or have started and intend to continue watching, we will keep paying our monthly fees.
Last week, Netflix unveiled a new feature that would let viewers know what the Top 10 most popular shows and movies are in their country each day. According to Business Insider, a source with direct knowledge of the initiative confirmed to them the calculation of what content is most popular will be based on the new 2-minute metric – further solidifying the link between intentionality and popularity.
What we intend to watch is therefore the key data point for Netflix, one that’s directly tied to their business model. While it may seem opaque, the 2-minute metric is perhaps a more transparent window into their business strategy. The lesson? Organizations should continuously reexamine the data analytics they collect, curate and communicate to ensure they’re measuring and messaging what’s important to them.
- Header Image Credit: TechRadar.com