Netflix has issued a series of top 10 “most popular” lists for its content in various genres, breaking down the movies, series, nonfiction programs, documentaries, comedy specials, kids and family and international releases that were among the most viewed in the U.S. market.
Netflix released rankings, but did not disclose actual viewership stats, in keeping with its longstanding policy. According to a Netflix spokeswoman, the rankings were determined not by total number of viewers, but by counting the total number of households to stream an individual title for at least two minutes during the first 28 days of its release. For those titles that have not yet been available for 28 days, the company used projections based on the early data to estimate a 28-day viewership number, a process that Netflix has used with viewership data disclosed on its quarterly earnings calls.
Netflix’s definitions and methodologies make its “most popular” lists impossible to compare on an apples-to-apples basis with traditional TV ratings.
It’s understood that Netflix decided to release the “most popular” lists in an effort to have its titles considered as part of the parade of year-end lists and ranking stories. Netflix also noted that this is the time of year when viewership typically peaks on the platform, so the lists are a curation suggestion to help users comb through an overflowing list of programs — or as Netflix put it, to “help members find something great to watch at a time of year when viewing typically peaks.”
Fantasy and sci-fi drama series performed well for Netflix in 2019 in the scripted series arena. In nonfiction, viewers flocked to cooking competitions, music-themed game shows and, of course, Marie Kondo. Among comedy specials, the biggest hit of the year appears to have been Dave Chappelle’s “Sticks and Stones” special.
The third season of “Stranger Things” was No. 1 among all series releases in the U.S. and No. 2 on the list of all 2019 releases, behind the Netflix original movie title “Murder Mystery.” That was no surprise as Netflix executives have cited “Stranger Things” as one of the service’s top-performing titles. Season 3 bowed on July 4, nearly two years after the arrival of season 2 on Oct. 27, 2017.
Netflix cited fantasy drama “The Witcher,” starring Henry Cavill, as No. 2 among series, which was a surprise for a show that bowed Dec. 20. “Witcher” ranked No. 6 on the list of all titles.
“The Umbrella Academy,” a comic book adaptation about a dysfunctional family of superheroes that debuted on Feb. 19, was No. 3 on the series list and No. 9 on the list of all 2019 releases. Netflix said in April that the series was sampled by 45 million households in its first month.
“Stranger Things” was the only Netflix original series to crack the top five among the list of all 2019 titles, which was otherwise dominated by original and licensed movies. The rankings for series underscore Netflix’s insatiable demand for fresh content as few of its longest-running shows made the top 10 cut. Notably absent were long-established Netflix originals such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “The Crown” and “Black Mirror,” as well as the critically acclaimed newcomer “Russian Doll.”
The highly regarded comedy “Dead to Me” ranked No. 4 among series, followed by Season 2 of “You,” the drama thriller that Netflix picked up from Lifetime. “You’s” sophomore season dropped only days ago, on Dec. 26, compared to “Dead to Me,” which debuted May 3.
The Emmy-winning limited series “When They See Us,” which premiered May 31, came in at No. 6.
On the nonfiction front, Marie Kondo still rules the day. “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” which kicked off on Jan. 1, ranked No. 1. Cooking competitions and music-themed game shows also had traction.
Following Kondo in the top five were “Jailbirds,” about women in prison; music quizzer “Rhythm and Flow”; Bear Grylls interactive adventure series “You vs. Wild” and Season 3 of baking competition “Nailed It.” Notably absent were the Netflix originals “Queer Eye” and “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”
Among Netflix comedy specials, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes were the only two women to make the list. The top four entries were toplined by performers of color.
10 Most Popular Series on Netflix in 2019
“Stranger Things 3”
“The Umbrella Academy”
“Dead to Me”
“You: Season 2”
“When They See Us”
“13 Reasons Why: Season 3”
10 Most Popular Nonfiction Series on Netflix in 2019
“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”
“Rhythm and Flow”
“You vs. Wild”
“Nailed It: Season 3”
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: New 2019: Fresh Brewed”
“Awake: The Million Dollar Game”
“Sugar Rush Christmas”
“Sugar Rush: Season 2”
10 Most Popular Comedy Specials on Netflix in 2019
“Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones”
“Kevin Hart: Irresponsible”
“Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias: One Show Fits All”
“Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho”
“Amy Schumer: Growing”
“Bill Burr: Paper Tiger”
“Aziz Ansari: Right Now”
“Jeff Dunham: Beside Himself”
“Wanda Sykes: Not Normal”
“Mike Epps: Only One Mike”
(Pictured: “Stranger Things,” “The Witcher” and “When They See Us”)