Netflix’s New Metrics

Extraction (2020) / Chris Hemsworth

Red Clay / Freddie Hubbard


John Fraim

I’m not a dedicated viewer of Netflix but every now and then, have “episodes” of watching it before going back to my normal cable shows. Last weekend was one of these Netflix episodes and I had the unusual and serendipitous experience of watching two of the most successful programs in the history of Netflix. 

One was an action movie and the other a political thriller series. I found out later that both were in the top ten of all-time streamed programs on Netflix. This is based on the newly established Netflix metric of hours watched. I first watched the current movie Extraction 2 (released June 16, 2023) and then the original Extraction (released April 24, 2020) at the beginning of the pandemic. The series was The Night Agent (released in March 23,2023). 

The Extraction movies are hyper-action films directed by Sam Hargrave and written by Joe Russon, based on the graphic novel Ciudad by Ande Parks. The film stars Chris Hemsworth. an Australian black ops-mercenary who takes on a mission to save an Indian drug lord’s kidnapped son in Dhaka, Bangladesh. While it received mixed reviews, it became the most-watched original film in Netflix’s history, with over 99 million viewers during its first four weeks. Since 2020, the original 2020 Extraction has settled into 7th all time place on Netflix with 231,340,000 hours watched according to the Netflix observer site Whats On Netflix (WON).

As WON notes, in the three years since the first Extraction film, Netflix has had a radical change in the way it tracks its weekly top ten. In the first week of the 2023 Extraction 2, was watched for a total of 88,400,000 hours. The new view count of Netflix is calculated by taking the total number of hours viewed and dividing it by the Movie/Show’s total runtime in hours.

The radical change in viewership numbers is still being worked out by Netflix and certainly by the advertising industry. WON observes, Netflix has had some pretty big hits over the years, but measuring its biggest hits has always been a struggle for observers. As they note, “Until late 2021, we got the number of accounts starting a show/movie, but they’ve since switched to hours watched. Using those hours watched, the top 10 most-watched English Language Original titles (in first month) over all Netflix history as of June 25, 2023 are:

Extraction – 99 million views

Bird Box – 89 million views

Spenser Confidential – 85 million views

Underground – 83 million views

Murder Mystery – 83 million views

The Old Guard – 78 million views

Enola Holmes – 76 million views

Project Power – 75 million views

Army of the Dead – 75 million views

Fatherhood – 74 million views

The Night Agent (2023) / Luciane Buchanan & Gabriel Basso

Using the new Netflix metrics, the political thriller series The Night Agent (Season 1 … and first season) comes in at number 6th of all time hours watched for a series. The current list (as of June 25, 2023) is the following:

Stranger Things (Season 4) – 1,352,090,000 hours watched

Wednesday (Season 1) – 1,237,150,000 hours watched

DAHMER (Limited Series) – 856,220,000 hours watched

Bridgerton (Season 2) – 656,260,000 hours watched

The Night Agent (Season 1) – 626,990,000 hours watched

Bridgerton (Season 1) – 625,490,000 hours watched

Stranger Things (Season 3) – 582,100,000 hours watched

Lucifer (Season 5) – 569,480,000 hours watched

The Witcher (Season 1) – 541,010,000 hours watched

Inventing Anna (Limited Series) – 511,920,000 hours watched

In terms of first season hours watched, The Night Agent is currently second only to season 1 of Wednesday.

Popularity of content on cable and streamers like Netflix is always a matter of a number of things such as things like other content competition at the time, events in culture and society, advertising, marketing and critics reviews. But total hours watched is more of an accumulation over time when all the dust of current popularity settles. It often goes against the Rotten Tomatoes of critical reviews and offers a true metric of viewership. (One can see reviews of The Night Agent or Extraction on Google … spoiler alert though).

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In the broadcast era of television, metrics of viewership were measured by surveys and devices placed on a number of televisions. Over the years, Nielsen was able to define and segment viewership more and more.

Netflix’s new metrics for viewership will continue to evolve. But for now, it offers perhaps the most accurate method of rating the top content in the ever increasing streaming movie and TV series.

By pretty much serendipity, I just happened to watch two of Netflix’s most viewed programs of all time. You can too (below) if you have Netflix. Then, don’t listen to the critics or all the others. Judge for yourself. And, add to the new metrics of Netflix.

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Watch Extraction on Netflix.

Watch Extraction 2 on Netflix.

Watch The Night Agent on Netflix.

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