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Netflix Has Released Lists of Their Most Popular Titles and We Have Questions

Netflix, chill.

the kids of stranger things s3

When it comes to ratings, the reach and popularity of streaming programing is mysterious. Streamers have the numbers regarding how many accounts watch their shows and how many times, but they share them rarely. And when they do, the numbers and results are … puzzling, to say the least. Such is the case with the latest list from Netflix of their “most popular” shows and movies.

Here’s the overall list:

And here are the breakdown for series v. movies.

I have to say—what? This seems off, especially considering that movies like Thor: Ragnarok were on Netflix at points this year and Marriage Story seems like a hit but it’s missing. Sure, we all watched Stranger Things, but what about the fact that that other ranking services have stated that the most streamed and binged show of 2019 was Lucifer, which doesn’t show up here at all? Check out the similar list compiled by TV Time:

I have not spoken to a single living soul that will confess to watching Murder Mystery. Same goes for Triple Frontier and Secret Obsession—two films I couldn’t tell you the plot of if I tried. What’s the criteria for this list? We know that the movies at least aren’t all Netflix originals because Increibles 2, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse and Ralph Breaks the Internet are there, but the series are all Netflix originals … but then why no Lucifer? And they’re not excluding shows that are going into final seasons or are canceled because When they See Us and 13 Reasons Why are on there. Same goes for show that debuted off Netflix, because You is there.

So what gives? Well, the list is limited to “titles released on Netflix in 2019” but that doesn’t mean much. There’s also the qualifier that “titles released this month incorporate predictions,” so they’re just guessing that lots of people will keep watching The Witcher and You. But there’s also the caveat that they’re counting accounts that watched at least two minutes of these things—which is sorta ridiculous.

What’s strangest to me is that there are zero Disney or Disney-affiliated series on these lists, not even among the kids’ stuff and the two Disney movies they have on there will stay on Netflix for a while (July and December). But also there’s barely any Warner Brothers content. No Lucifer but also no Chilling Adventures of Sabrina … these exclusions feels like petty digs at Disney and at the soon to be released Warner media Netflix competitor, HBOMax.

That’s just my speculation, however, and all of this really is speculation as are all lists of streaming popularity numbers. Maybe this list is right and the Lucifer number is lies! We just don’t know. All I know is what I see people talking about.

Unlike with Nielsen ratings, which are compiled by an independent company and pretty transparent, we have no way of verifying this data, and we have no insight into how Netflix is limiting their lists or criteria. Nielsen ratings matter to advertisers, which isn’t the point here. This is all basically a big Net-flex to show how popular so much of their signature content is, even if it’s barely made it into the Twitter discourse in many cases.

The mounting evidence is that the Netflix model of dropping full series at least is not a good one for keeping stuff in the conversation. That’s honestly the worst thing for the service. We spent weeks talking about Watchmen and The Mandalorian because they came out week to week. We’ll be done talking about You and The Witcher by mid-January.

Netflix wants to promote their original movie and shows as just as big events that everyone must subscribe to their service to be a part of, but how does that happen when half their top shows and series leave us scratching our heads asking “what’s that about again?” Maybe the big winner will be a show about how they compile these ratings, because that’s something to talk about.

(image: Netflix)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.