Netflix disclosed its internal viewing statistics for “Tiger King” and other shows as part of its first-quarter earnings release on Tuesday. Dating reality show “Love Is Blind” has been sampled by some 30 million member households.
A big surprise in the viewership tidbits offered was the Mark Wahlberg-starrer “Spenser Confidential,” an original crime drama movie directed by Peter Berg, which has been checked out by a whopping 85 million households since it bowed on March 6. The third season of the drama “Ozark” has garnered looks from 29 million member households in its first four weeks in release.
The internet giant’s viewing metrics are impossible to compare with traditional TV ratings. Netflix counts a household as having viewed a title if it was watched for at least two minutes, which is a different measure than the average-minute audience yardstick that is the Nielsen standard for measuring linear TV.
Netflix seemed to go out of its way not to gloat about its strong subscriber gains driven in part by the unprecedented global pandemic that has forced millions of people around the world to shelter at home to stop the virus spread. That has created optimal conditions for consumers to sign up for Netflix and its well-stocked content pantry. But Netflix warned that the torrid pace of growth in the pandemic-shaken Q1 may not continue when social distancing measures begin to ease.
“We’re acutely aware that we are fortunate to have a service that is even more meaningful to people confined at home, and which we can operate remotely with minimal disruption in the short to medium term,” Netflix wrote. “Like other home entertainment services, we’re seeing temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth. In our case, this is offset by a sharply stronger U.S. dollar, depressing our international revenue, resulting in revenue-as-forecast. We expect viewing to decline and membership growth to decelerate as home confinement ends, which we hope is soon.”
Netflix acknowledged in the letter that the vast majority of its original productions have shuttered filming — with a few exceptions in South Korea and Iceland — a wallop that will eventually slow the pipeline of fresh content. For now, however, Netflix said it expects to be able to deliver its planned content slate for the second quarter.
“Within two weeks of the shelter-in-place orders coming into effect in Los Angeles, most of our animation production team was back up and running, working from home,” Netflix said. “On the post-production side, we’ve been able to get 200-plus projects going remotely. Most of our series writers’ rooms are operating virtually.”
Hot prospects for the second quarter include Ryan Murphy’s period drama “Hollywood,” the reunion of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell for “Space Force,” and the original action movie “Extraction” toplined by Chris Hemsworth.
Netflix said it has committed to paying crews on Netflix-owned productions, rather than those from third-party providers, for at least seven weeks as a “bridge” into pubic safety-net unemployment programs. The company has donated $30 million to non-profits to provide “emergency relief” for the most vulnerable crew members “in countries where we have a large production base.”
The company has brought on more than 2,000 customer service agents to handle the higher volume of calls that came with the massive 15.7 million gain in subscribers in the quarter. Netflix noted that it cooperated with requests “by a number of governments” to reduce the amount of bandwidth eaten up by Netflix members. A reduction of 25% was accomplished “virtually overnight” without much notice from subscribers, Netflix reported.
“We’re now working with ISPs to help increase capacity so that we can lift these limitations as conditions improve,” Netflix wrote.
Netflix also noted that the global level of uncertainty spurred by the coronavirus outbreak has made it hard to predict what the second quarter will bring in terms of the company’s most important business indicator, subscriber growth.
“Hopefully, progress against the virus will allow governments to lift the home confinement soon. As that happens, we expect viewing and growth to decline,” Netflix wrote. “Our internal forecast and guidance is for 7.5 million global paid net additions in Q2. Given the uncertainty on home confinement timing, this is mostly guesswork.”