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Netflix is starting to share audience numbers that it’s never disclosed before

Published Jan 17th, 2019 6:01PM EST
Netflix earnings
Image: AP/Shutterstock

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Well, now we know why Netflix felt comfortable announcing the largest price hike in the history of the streaming service a few days ago.

Raising prices would be exactly the wrong move if you were shedding subscribers and your business was spiraling, which is certainly not the case here. The streaming giant just reported its fourth quarter earnings performance after the market close today, which included the announcement that Netflix added 8.84 million subscribers during the holiday quarter. That grows its total count almost 26 percent, to 139 million subscribers worldwide.

The revenue from the recently announced price hike will continue funding original movies and TV series that will be exclusive to Netflix and, even more important, help ensure the loyalty of those millions of subscribers it just added in the face of rival streaming services like Disney’s forthcoming offering Disney+ entering the category.

The streaming giant has in the past been famously reluctant to share any data at all about what people are watching on the service and how many of them are doing so. That’s starting to change a little, with Netflix starting to share — via its new earnings report — some data it’s never wanted to disclose in the past related to audience trends.

For starters, Netflix says its math shows that it currently accounts for 10 percent of all TV screen time in the US. “We serve on average about 100 million hours a day to television screens in the US, and we estimate television screens in the US are on about a billion hours daily,” the company writes in its quarterly earnings letter. By Netflix’s reckoning, that encompasses 120 million homes with two TVs for four hours a day, plus TVs in hotels and bars and other places outside the home.

Among other interesting viewership data Netflix has released today, it says that Bird Box has now been seen by an estimated 80 million households — which is kind of a fuzzy metric, as it refers to a single household that’s seen at least 70 percent of the movie and doesn’t take into account the number of actual viewers.

Using that same metric, though, Netflix also estimates that You and Sex Education — two extremely buzzy new series just released on the service — will have reached an estimate 40 million households in their first four weeks of release.

This is not an accidental release. Theory: As competition heats up in the streaming space, Netflix may feel like it needs to disclose more numbers like this since agents, actors, directors and the like increasingly want them and it will help Netflix keep securing the content deals it needs to fend off the insurgent competition.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.