Netflix says overseas hoops fans flocked in huge numbers to “The Last Dance,” the documentary series about Michael Jordan and the ’90s Chicago Bulls team, which has been a ratings smash in the U.S. for ESPN.
Netflix tweeted the numbers Wednesday, claiming that 23.8 million households outside the U.S. checked out “The Last Dance” in its first four weeks on the service. “23 was always his lucky number!” the streamer said, referencing Jordan’s jersey number.
But some big caveats are in order — Netflix’s selectively reported viewing figures aren’t comparable to TV ratings. The streamer bases its publicly reported audience metrics based on how many member accounts watched a given show or movie for a minimum of just 2 minutes — an in-house calculation the company claims is a better reflection of popularity than average time spent viewing, which is how the television world measures viewership.
“The Last Dance” will launch on Netflix in the U.S. on July 19, the company announced as part of its first-quarter 2020 earnings announcement. Prior to then, ABC will re-air episodes starting this Saturday, with two weekly episodes over five weeks.
ESPN’s “Last Dance,” co-produced with Netflix, debuted on April 19, running simultaneously on ESPN in the United States and Netflix internationally.
In the sports-starved quarantine landscape, “The Last Dance” was ratings dynamite for ESPN: It averaged 5.6 million viewers across all 10 episodes, making it the most-viewed documentary ever for the sports programmer.
On Netflix’s Q1 earnings interview last month, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the Bulls docuseries has “been a win-win for us and ESPN and a great win for basketball fans, who’ve been very hungry for new programming.” He said that because of “the complexity of the rights and the footage” it would have been very difficult for either ESPN or Netflix to produce “The Last Dance” independently.
“Last Dance,” directed by Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five,” “The ’85 Bears,” “Andre the Giant”), features previously unreleased footage from the Bulls’ 1997-98 season.