Netflix has proclaimed that “Bird Box,” its thriller from Susanne Bier and starring Sandra Bullock, is a big ol’ hit. And now Nielsen is agreeing with the streaming service — even if their numbers and measurement methodology differ.
The ratings measurement company, which has been occasionally sharing viewership data as it unveils its own streaming content ratings, reports that “Bird Box” reached an unduplicated audience of nearly 26 million viewers within its first seven days of availability (Dec. 21 to Dec. 27).
That’s a tally specific to the United States, which may be why it’s a bit different number from Netflix’s assertion on Dec. 28 that more than 45 million Netflix accounts “have already watched ‘Bird Box.'” The streaming service later said that it only counted accounts in which at least 70 percent of “Bird Box” had been viewed, making that number appear all the more impressive.
Netflix rarely shares any meaningful ratings data, and its claims can’t be independently verified. But at the time, Netflix said the “Bird Box” viewership made it the “best first 7 days ever for a Netflix film,” and this is where Nielsen agrees.
Of all the Netflix originals that Nielsen has analyzed, the company said “Bird Box” was second only to “Stranger Things” Season 2 in unduplicated reach.
Per Nielsen’s measurement, “Bird Box” reached nearly 3.5 million viewers on its premiere day — which was actually below the 5.4 million viewers that last year’s Will Smith Netflix film “Bright” did on opening day.
Like “Bird Box,” “Bright” was launched on Netflix during the holiday season. But “Bright” soon dropped off, while this year, “Bird Box” has exhibited remarkable staying power. Last year, after seven days, “Bright” reached 20 million (Dec. 22 to Dec. 28, 2017), compared to “Bird Box’s” 26 million.
Thanks perhaps to solid word of mouth (compared to last year’s negative reviews for “Bright”), “Bird Box” has seen consistent reach during its first 10 days of release. According to Nielsen, the film averaged a reach of nearly 4 million viewers almost every day since its release during the holiday season.
As for viewing volume — the average minute audience for a program — according to Nielsen, the highest single day of viewing for “Bird Box” was on Day 8 of availability (Dec. 28), with an average minute audience of 3.9 million U.S. viewers. And within the first seven days, “Bird Box” had enjoyed an average minute audience of more than 24.2 million viewers.
Nielsen also revealed some interesting demographic details about “Bird Box.” According to the company, “Bird Box” attracted a young, diverse, and female audience. The film’s highest concentration of viewers were age 18 to 34 (36 percent), while about 57 percent of the film’s audience was female. Also, nearly half of the audience (46 percent) was either African American (24 percent) or Latino (22 percent).
In comparison, among original Netflix series, Nielsen reported that the first Season 6 episode of “House of Cards” had an average minute audience of 2.9 million viewers during its first seven days of availability (Nov. 2—8) compared to 4.4 million for the Season 5 premiere episode.
In August, Nielsen revealed that the Season 6 premiere of “Orange Is the New Black” averaged 5.3 million U.S. viewers during the first three days of availability, compared to 6.7 million for Season 4.
Other premiere episodes with ratings revealed by Nielsen include “13 Reasons Why” (6.1 million after three days of availability), “The Crown” (nearly 3 million after the first three days), “Disenchantment” (4.4 million after three days), and, of course, “Stranger Things” (a whopping 15.8 million viewers in the first three days).
As always, it’s good to keep in mind that Netflix continues to dismiss Nielsen’s numbers. But insiders say the numbers are pretty close — and Nielsen has been working on its streaming ratings methodology for some time for its SVOD Content Ratings. Critics argue its numbers are still underrepresented because it only covers the U.S. and doesn’t include viewing on mobile devices or PCs.
Written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Bier, “Bird Box” centers on a mysterious force that causes people to take their own life if they see it. Sandra Bullock stars as Malorie, who flees with her two children in order to find sanctuary. Their journey, however, requires them to be blindfolded. Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, and John Malkovich also star. “Bird Box” opened in exclusive limited theatrical engagements in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London on Dec. 13, and was released globally on Netflix on Dec. 21.
Per Nielsen, here’s a look at “Bird Box’s” reach at the end of 2018, vs. “Bright” a year earlier:
And here’s average minute viewership data for “Bird Box”: