'The Witcher' is Netflix's most-watched new series ever as streamer adds over 8 million subscribers

Henry Cavill in character as Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher. (Photo: Netflix)
Henry Cavill in character as Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher. (Photo: Netflix)

Cape Town – Netflix announced that the fantasy drama series The Witcher with Henry Cavill has become its most-watched new series ever.

The news comes after the streaming service announced that it has changed its ratings measurement metric and also revealed that their fourth-quarter (Q4) subscriber numbers surged by another 8.76 million.

In its Q4 2019 investor report that it - released on Tuesday night - Netflix said that it added another 8.75 million subscribers of which 8.33 million internationally and 420 000 within the United States. 

The streaming giant managed to beat its forecast of gaining 7.6 million subscribers in Q4 and projects to add 7 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020.

Its fourth-quarter subscriber growth brought Netflix to 167.1 million subscribers worldwide at the end of 2019 of which 61 million were in the United States and 106 million in the rest of the world.

The platform said in its investor letter: "Our low membership growth [in the United States] is probably due to our recent price changes and to the United States competitive launches,".

Making reference to the launches of new streaming services like Apple TV+ and Disney+ in late-2019. Netflix noted that it had record subscriber additions in Africa, Europe and Middle East (EMEA) region during the fourth quarter, adding another 4.42 million customers in this region.

"Many media companies and tech giants are launching streaming services, reinforcing the major trend of the transition from linear to streaming entertainment. This is happening all over the world and is still in its early stages, leaving ample room for many services to grow as linear TV wanes."

"We have a big headstart in streaming and will work to build on that by focusing on the same thing we have focused on for the past 22 years – pleasing members."

In a footnote in its earnings report, Netflix said that it is changing its rating system and how it reports viewing numbers, something which will increase viewership data for Netflix programming, which isn't independently measured. Netflix notoriously doesn't release detailed rating information.

While Netflix previously counted a view when a subscriber watched 70% of an episode or film, it now counts as little as 2 minutes of viewing time as a subscriber having watched that content. Netflix now counts a view when a subscriber "chose to watch and did watch for at least 2 minutes – long enough to indicate the choice was intentional".

"As we've expanded our original content, we've been working on how to best share content highlights that demonstrate popularity," Netflix noted.

"Our new methodology is similar to the BBC iPlayer in their rankings based on requests for the title, most popular articles on The New York Times, which include those who opened the articles, and YouTube view counts."

Netflix is making the change to its ratings methodology so that "short and long titles are treated equally, levelling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length".

"Given that we now have titles with widely varying lengths – from short episodes to long films, we believe that reporting households viewing a title based on 70% of a single episode of a series or of an entire film, which we have been doing, makes less sense. We are now reporting on households that chose to watch a given title."

"The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric. For example, 45 million member households chose to watch Our Planet under the new metric vs 33 million under the prior metric."

Netflix already renewed The Witcher for a second season adding: "As a testament to how our hit content can penetrate the global zeitgeist and influence popular culture, the show's launch drove up sales of The Witcher books and games around the world, and spawned a viral musical hit".

Netflix noted that the third season of Brit-drama The Crown was watched by 21 million households with 73 million households worldwide that have watched at least 2 minutes since the series launched. Klaus, Netflix's first original feature-length animation film to be nominated for an Oscar, was seen by 40 million households in the first month of its release.

The second season of You was viewed by 54 million households during its first month of release, and 83 million households watched the Michael Bay film 6 Underground starring Ryan Reynolds.

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