HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 14: General views of the Netflix Hollywood campus on Vine amid the historic joint WGA & SAG-AFTRA writers and actors strike on July 14, 2023 in Hollywood, California.

Netflix Just Took a Big Step Toward Transparency—Will Other Streamers Follow?

In a surprising but welcome decision, Netflix has released a comprehensive report of the platform’s streaming statistics. Netflix has promised to produce “What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report” twice a year, which will detail how many hours people spent watching the platform’s movies and shows over a six-month period.

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The first report, which Netflix published on December 12, 2023, lists over 18,000 titles available on the service, including Netflix Originals and licensed content, and reveals how many hours they were viewed between January and June 2023. The document also lists whether the titles are available globally and when they were first released. Each season of a TV show is given a separate entry. You can download the report here.

The Night Agent‘s first season, which was released in March 2023, has taken the number one spot, with a total of 812,100,000 hours viewed between March and June. Second on the list is fellow Netflix Original series Ginny & Georgia season 2, which was released in January and was viewed for 665,100,000 hours between its premiere date and June. The Glory, a South Korean Netflix production, comes in third, followed by Wednesday season 1—which actually debuted in November 2022—Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, and You season 4.

It’s clear that while certain licensed shows like Suits, New Amsterdam, and Breaking Bad have been beneficial for Netflix and its subscribers, it is Netflix’s original productions that generate the most activity. The report also demonstrates that viewers often revisit previous seasons of their favorite shows before the next one comes along—both Ginny & Georgia season 1 and Outerbanks season 1 are high up on the list. Outerbanks season 3 debuted in February 2023 and is only two places below You season 4 in terms of hours watched.

The statistics are undeniably fascinating. But how will this affect the industry going forward? Historically speaking, streamers have always been unnervingly secretive about their viewership numbers. Whenever certain shows got canceled, often without warning, audiences and creators were forced to speculate about what had happened. Without knowing how many hours a certain show was watched, how could you possibly understand why Netflix, or any other streamer, decided to cancel your favorite series? All that secrecy did was foster mistrust and frustration.

Creators, more than anyone, deserve to know how their shows and movies are faring. Not just so they could understand why something may have been canceled but also so that they can negotiate fairer compensation should their projects be successful. The Writers Guild of America pushed for far greater transparency during the strike earlier this year, and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers) agreed to their terms. According to the summary of the deal, the studios agreed to provide the WGA with “the total number of hours streamed, both domestically and internationally, of self-produced high budget streaming programs.” Though the WGA agreed to keep those statistics confidential, Netflix has now decided to release much of this information to the public anyway.

The question that remains is whether other studios and streamers will follow Netflix’s example. Over the last few months, certain streaming platforms have set an alarming precedent. Disney+ and Max, among others, have removed content with little to no warning, sometimes for tax breaks, never to be seen again. Creators and consumers are understandably finding it difficult to trust these studios with their projects and their hard-earned money. Perhaps if these studios explained their reasoning better and didn’t abandon their creators in the process, we might learn to trust them a little more.

Netflix’s new transparency policy might not solve every problem in Hollywood, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

(via Netflix, featured image: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.