TV ratings are often treated like box office results: just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good. That being said, many television fans want to know how many people are watching their favorite show, if only because they want it to remain on the air. With Netflix (and Hulu, Amazon, Yahoo and more streaming companies), these numbers have always been hidden under lock and key… until now.
Variety has released a report conducted by Luth Research, a San Diego-based firm that polled a statistically relevant sampling of Netflix subscribers about their viewing habits to get an idea of how many people are watching “House of Cards,” “Daredevil,” “Bloodline” and more recently-released Netflix originals.
So what show is the most popular Netflix series of 2015? It’s a tight race, but “Daredevil” seems to have the edge over the network’s flagship series, “House of Cards.” In the new series’ first 11 days of release, 10.7 percent of subscribers watched at least one episode. “House of Cards” Season 3 attracted only 6.5 percent of subscribers in its first 30 days of release, a figure bested by “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” with 7.3 percent. News is less positive for
Coach’s Kyle Chandler’s new series, “Bloodline,” which saw only 2.4 percent of subscribers try it out over its first 30 days — a figure lower even than the poorly-reviewed “Marco Polo.”
Despite “House of Cards'” low comparative figure for Season 3, the series’ popularity is still unquestionably high: It was the most popular Netflix series in March (after being released February 27), pulling in 6.4 percent of all subscribers, and it’s been binge-viewed more than any other aforementioned series.
The results, while relevant in that they give an idea of specific viewing patterns, is undermined somewhat, given that the study of 2,500 subscribers did not track Netflix viewing on TVs. Instead, it measured subscriber viewing on computers, tablets or phones, but not smart TVs or televisions connected to streaming devices. Perhaps “Daredevil” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are more attractive to a younger crowd (which makes sense) who prefer to watch television on smaller, more portable devices, while an older, more traditional audience — like the one who would like a show about 50ish-year-old backstabbing politicians — tunes in on their big screen in the living room.
No matter the exact numbers, these kind of figures are encouraging for shows like “Daredevil” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” After NBC passed “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” onto Netflix, many wondered whether the series could thrive on a platform like Netflix. Now we know it can and then some. And after the muted success of Marvel’s other superhero-themed shows on network TV (namely “Agents of SHIELD” and “Agent Carter”), fans can rest assured “Daredevil” is alive and well (it did already earn a Season 2 pickup, after all).
Though direct comparisons to the Nielsen ratings aren’t exact — as Nielsen measures per episode, and Netflix offers full seasons all at once — total audience comparisons can be made on a rough level. Netflix has about 40.9 million domestic subscribers, so if 7.3 percent of them watched “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” in its first 30 days of release, that means 2.98 million watched at least one episode. Additionally, that means 2.6 million people watched “House of Cards” Season 3. For “Daredevil,” 4.45 million tuned in during the first 11 days, and all of these numbers would only increase when including viewers who watched on TV sets.
Does that mean “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” would have failed on NBC? Not necessarily, but it is a strong indication of how niche programming can succeed — and keep being made — on Netflix. (Even if they won’t make these numbers official.)