Ratings provided to Variety by Symphony Advanced Media reveal that the first eight episodes of “Stranger Things” make up the third most watched season of a Netflix original series to debut in the last year. Within its first 35 days on the streaming service, the supernatural drama averaged 14.07 million adults 18-49. Only season one of “Fuller House” and season four of “Orange is the New Black” drew larger demo audiences in their first 35 days.
Among Netflix originals, “Stranger Things” ranks ahead of “Making a Murderer” (13.35 million), “Daredevil” season two (13.35 million), “Jessica Jones” (6.26 million), “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” season two (6.08 million), “The Ranch” (6.01 million), “House of Cards” season four (5.67 million), “F is for Family” (4.81 million) all other Netflix series that Symphony tracks.
Netflix, like competitors Hulu and Amazon, has consistently declined to release ratings information about its programming. Executives have, when pressed for viewership data, argued that because Netflix is an ad-free subscription service, ratings are not germane to its business model.
But in the last year, multiple measurement companies have started to independently gauge viewership for streaming shows. Symphony in September 2015 began tracking original series on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, using audio-code recognition software and a panel of more than 15,000 people.
Speaking at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in July, Netflix chief content officer ted Sarandos expressed skepticism at efforts by Symphony and Nielsen to measure Netflix viewership. “Both Nielsen and Symphony claim accuracy, but one of them reported the viewing of Season 4 of ‘Orange is the New Black’ to be two times what the other reported,” Sarandos said. He then used those numbers to claim bragging rights, adding, “Either number, if true, would be great for Netflix, especially since it’s only U.S. viewing and it’s only for the first 35 days of release.”
Sarandos did not offer any internal Netflix data to counter ratings claims made by Symphony, Nielsen or any other company. “The focus of the ratings companies has really no relevance on us,” he said.
Data provided by Symphony in June showed that Netflix’s top-rated original shows far outpace most series on Hulu and Amazon.
Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, “Stranger Things” has a 95% “fresh” rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the best reviewed series of 2016 thus far. Variety‘s Maureen Ryan wrote in July of the show’s first four episodes, “‘Stranger Things’ is the kind of genre entertainment that doesn’t forget the second word of that phrase, but it is primarily interested in watching believably flawed people wrestle with the idea that some things are unknowable, and that having “answers” doesn’t necessarily prevent the arrival of pain and confusion.”