Netflix spills its top-10 shows and movies by hours watched for the first time

Yoshiko Yap
Scene from Stranger Things

Stranger Things is among the shows that a new hours-watched metric reveals are more popular than Netflix’s previous metrics indicated.


Netflix released top-10 rankings Monday for its most popular original shows and movies by the number of hours that people watched them in total during the first month of their release, the first time it has disclosed that kind of data for its programming. (And in about two weeks, Netflix’s breakout hit Squid Game, a Korean dystopian horror series, may be the new leader in the ranks of its top TV once it hits its own one month mark.)

For the last couple of years, Netflix has been more aggressive in publicizing its most popular titles, but typically its viewership stats were based on the number of accounts that viewed at least two minutes of a program — a metric sometimes criticized for not really showing how many people watched a title, just how many sampled it. The hours-watched metric also demonstrates the strength of some shows that were released before Netflix began to be consistently vocal about viewership stats, or those that were released so long ago that Netflix simply had millions fewer accounts out there to sample them than newer shows enjoy, 

Stranger Things‘ third season, for example, is Netflix’s fifth most popular show by number of accounts sampling it. But by hours watched, the third season of Stranger Things moves up to Netflix’s No. 3 most popular original series — and its second season, which came out when Netflix had 100 million fewer subscribers than it has now, is its No. 8 top show by hours watched. 

Retro sci-fi series Stranger Things is one of just three shows that show up in the hours-watched top-10 list twice. Money Heist, a Spanish-language series also known as La Casa de Papel, and 13 Reasons Why, a teen series that’s been criticized for its depiction of suicide, also reappear on the list of shows by most hours watched. Their reoccurrence in the rankings reflects how hours watched, as a metric, can be a better gauge of the enduring appeal of particular titles. 

But the hours-watched metric also has some drawbacks: For example, it favors movies and TV seasons that simply have longer runtimes. Three-and-a-half-hour long The Irishman suddenly appears up high in Netflix’s film top-10 list by hours watched, even though it falls far short of a top-10 ranking if you count how many accounts sampled it. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about viewership. The creator of House of Cards, which put Netflix’s original content efforts on the map, once said the company wouldn’t even share viewership metrics with him. But within the last two years, Netflix has grown much chattier about the popularity of its shows and movies, to help recruit talent and stoke buzz. It also added a top-trending ranking to its service, so people can see what the most popular titles streaming on Netflix in their country are on any given day. 

But Netflix’s audience stats have exasperated parts of the TV industry for being unverified, unsupported and disclosed without much accountability.

“We’re trying to be more transparent with the market, with the talent, with everybody,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said Monday at the Code conference in Los Angeles, where Netflix unveiled the new rankings. 

Netflix’s most popular shows

Netflix top-10 series by total view hours in the first 28 days: 

  1. Bridgerton, season 1 — 625 million hours
  2. Money Heist, part 4 — 619 million hours
  3. Stranger Things 3 — 582 million hours
  4. The Witcher, season 1 — 541 million hours
  5. 13 Reasons Why, season 2 — 496 million hours
  6. 13 Reasons Why, season 1 — 476 million hours
  7. You, season 2 — 457 million hours
  8. Stranger Things 2 — 427 million hours
  9. Money Heist, part 3 — 426 million hours
  10. Ginny & Georgia, season 1 — 381 million hours

Netflix had previously released (nearly) all the viewership stats by number of accounts that sampled them for the shows in that top-10 ranking. 

Netflix top-10 series by number of accounts that have watched at least 2 minutes in its first 28 days of release:

  1. Bridgerton, season 1 — 82 million
  2. Lupin, part 1 — 76 million
  3. The Witcher, season 1 — 67 million
  4. Sex/Life, season 1 — 67 million
  5. Stranger Things 3 — 67 million (the only previously unreleased figure)
  6. Money Heist, part 4 — 65 million
  7. Tiger King, season 1 — 64 million
  8. The Queen’s Gambit — 62 million
  9. Sweet Tooth, season 1 — 60 million
  10. Emily in Paris, season 1 — 58 million

Netflix’s most popular movies

For movies, Netflix top-10 movies by total view hours in the first 28 days: 

  1. Bird Box — 282 million hours
  2. Extraction — 231 million hours
  3. The Irishman — 215 million hours
  4. The Kissing Booth 2 — 209 million hours
  5. 6 Underground — 205 million hours
  6. Spenser Confidential — 197 million hours
  7. Enola Holmes — 190 million hours
  8. Army of the Dead — 187 million hours
  9. The Old Guard — 186 million hours
  10. Murder Mystery — 170 million hours

Again, Netflix had previously released all the viewership stats for movies according to their two-minute metric. 

For reference, Netflix top-10 films by number of accounts that have watched at least 2 minutes in its first 28 days of release:

  1. Extraction — 99 million
  2. Bird Box — 89 million
  3. Spenser Confidential — 85 million
  4. 6 Underground — 83 million
  5. Murder Mystery — 83 million
  6. The Old Guard — 78 million
  7. Enola Holmes — 77 million
  8. Project Power — 75 million
  9. Army of the Dead — 75 million
  10. Fatherhood — 74 million

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