Netflix are notoriously shy with their viewing figures, but that doesn't mean independent researchers don't enjoy doing the number crunching. Jumpshot has just published a remarkable analysis of viewing trends and as you'll see, these figures reveal a lot about the decisions Netflix has made, both to renew shows and to launch whole new ones...
First, The Figures
Jumpshot's methodology is an intriguing one. They show the relative number of viewers who watched at least one episode of a series in the first 30 days after its release, and represent the viewing figures as an index against Netflix's most-viewed show — Daredevil Season 2. For example, you can see that 13 Reasons Why garnered 48% of views in the first 30 days, compared to Daredevil Season 2's 100%.
It's a curious approach to viewing figures, and fairly unique. Industry insiders will find it more than a little frustrating, given it's a far cry from the stats we receive from networks. Still, in the absence of concrete data, let's run through Jumpshot's estimates and do the analysis...
Daredevil Season 2
First of all, it's worth taking a step back and asking: What made #Daredevil Season 2 such a remarkable success? The show's performance is all the more stunning when you consider that back when Season 2 aired, Netflix had 75 million subscribers; they now have 100 million. And yet, their second-most-successful show, released just over a year later, has only garnered 48% of Daredevil Season 2's views. The chart clearly shows the strength of the Marvel Netflix brand, but this series performed better than any other Marvel Netflix show.
The key is probably Jon Bernthal's #Punisher. As I discussed in an earlier post, the Punisher's brand is unique among all superheroes. Comic book writer Nathan Edmondson, who briefly penned an excellent Punisher series, noted:
"The Punisher is perhaps the most ubiquitous comic character, world-wide. Soldiers wear him on their uniforms who haven’t read a comic in their lives; sex toys are nicknamed for him, racecars and wrestlers take on the skull or namesake, despite having little awareness of the actual comic... I have always liked The Punisher, the simplicity of the uncompromising death dealer; even his costume is simple, no-nonsense, fierce."
Edmondson is right, and it's frankly no surprise that Netflix announced a spin-off Punisher series (due out in November). Viewed as a trial run for a Punisher series, Daredevil Season 2 was an unprecedented success.
13 Reasons Why
Now let's move on to the second-most-successful Netflix Original, teen suicide drama #13ReasonsWhy. This was the only Netflix Original to see growth in week-over-week viewership, with an 18% increase in views by week 2. This success undoubtedly reflects the impact that word-of-mouth can have, as 13 Reasons Why proved to be a controversial series that inspired intense debate. More people tweeted about 13 Reasons Why in its first week of streaming than any other Netflix show in their first week.
A handful of Canadian schools banned students from discussing the series on campus. New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification created a whole new rating for the show aimed at preventing minors watching 13 Reasons Why without adult supervision. Many US schools even sent parents letters advising that they talk to their children about the show's themes. The concern was that themes of teen suicide should be handled with care, especially given the idealized reaction to Hannah's tapes, which essentially cause a wave of introspection and grief. The controversy, though, seems to have really helped the show's performance.
In response to the controversy, Netflix inserted additional content warnings that referred vulnerable teenagers to the Samaritans, or pointed them to the website 13reasonswhy.info. This site gave contact numbers for the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It was clear Netflix expected neither the success nor the controversy, and were left playing catch-up. The show has been renewed for Season 2, and we can expect a much more confident approach managing this second season.
The Rest Of The Marvel Netflix Shows
In addition to Daredevil Season 2, Jumpshot's analysis provides us with a sense of how the other three #Marvel Netflix shows performed too; #JessicaJones, #LukeCage, and #IronFist. Iron Fist's performance will surprise fans the most; after Daredevil Season 2, this controversial series is Marvel's second-most-successful Netflix show to date.
Ironically, this probably doesn't say anything about the strength of the Iron Fist brand. Instead, it likely reflects the strength of Marvel Netflix as a whole. Marketing for Iron Fist stressed that the series starred "the final Defender," and advertized it as an essential step on the road to #TheDefenders — the climax of Marvel Netflix's first phase. (It's a similar approach to the one taken by Marvel Studios for Captain America, with his first movie given the title The First Avenger — hinting at a narrative throughline to The Avengers.) If I'm right about this indicating the strength of the Marvel Netflix brand as a whole, we should surely expect The Defenders to beat Iron Fist over that crucial 30-day period.
This makes Iron Fist Season 2 something of a gamble, but Marvel is attempting to mitigate this by adding Simone Missick's Misty Knight. It seems likely that they'll be hoping to launch a Daughters of the Dragon series off the back of Season 2, starring Misty and Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing, just as Daredevil Season 2 served as a launchpad for The Punisher. Meanwhile, Marvel has replaced showrunner Scott Buck with Raven Metzner, someone who's far more familiar with martial arts series like Iron Fist.
Let's close this analysis off with one more surprise; #StrangerThings, which is already viewed as something of a cult classic. Surprisingly, this was the seventh-most-viewed Netflix Original series. It's worth noting, though, that Netflix didn't invest much in advertizing for Stranger Things. Instead, they depended on strong word-of-mouth after release to do the marketing for them. As a result, the series had the lowest week-on-week decline in viewers of any Netflix Original. According to Jumpshot's rival Symphony, within 35 days Stranger Things had overtaken Jessica Jones in terms of views.
Many industry insiders viewed the success of Stranger Things, and subsequently 13 Reasons Why as Netflix trying to essentially reinvent itself. Both were unprecedented attempts to reach out to the teenage demographic, a new source of revenue for the streaming giant, and both were remarkably successful. It's no surprise that Netflix has renewed Stranger Things for a second season; but I suspect the show will also blaze the trail for a lot more series aimed at teenage audiences.
Like anyone in the industry, I'd love to see the actual viewing figures for Netflix. For now, though, Jumpshot has provided us with our closest glimpse yet; an estimate of each show's performance compared to the most-viewed series, Daredevil Season 2. As you can see, digging into this data offers tremendous insight into the business decisions made by the streaming giant.
The unprecedented success of Marvel Netflix is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Netflix purchased Millarworld, a whole new source of superhero content. Meanwhile, Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why have clearly opened the way for Netflix to aim content squarely at the teenage demographic, appealing to a whole new audience.