The California-based firm has only recently begun releasing data for how many people are watching some of its originals. And even those numbers are of limited use because they lack the context a third-party data firm could provide, such as comparisons to traditional TV viewership and shows on rival services. In the time it takes to parse what Netflix’s data actually means, one could watch a decent chunk of Martin Scorsese’s latest mob epic.

For its New Year’s top 10 lists, Netflix calculated popularity based on how many people watched at least two minutes of a piece of content in its first 28 days of release, according to a person familiar with the methodology.

Yes, two minutes. That’s not a typo. If someone clicked on a Stranger Things episode because it was featured on the homepage and got about as far as the opening credits, that counts for Netflix’s popularity roundup. Think how YouTube counts views based on how many people start watching a video, not by how many finish.

This is different from how Netflix generally determines viewership. With its movies, for example, it’s a view if the person gets through 70 per cent of the run time. Netflix earlier this year said 73 million US households watched Murder Mystery in its first four weeks. This month, Netflix said The Irishman was watched by more than 26.4 million US households in its first week.

A spokesman for Netflix Australia said all the rankings were calculated by the number of unique account holders choosing to watch at least two minutes – repeat viewings did not count, nor multiple profiles – “which is similar to the way in which the BBC compiles its iPlayer rankings”.

“Basically, it’s to avoid discriminating against longer form content on the lists,” they said. “The rankings for these lists are very similar whether measured by 70 per cent watch, or the titles members chose to start watching (i.e. two minutes).”

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None of these figure are subject to outside scrutiny, so it can be argued that Netflix’s latest rankings don’t provide a reliable measure of success for its programming. But caveats aside, the list provides some interesting factoids, other than the ascendance of Murder Mystery.

In Australia, the Michael Bay action film 6 Underground, which was released as a Netflix original on the service this month came second. (The movie hasn’t been out for 28 days yet, so its ranking is based on a projection. The same goes for other recent releases.) Fantasy series The Witcher, which is again a Netflix original, came third. The third season of popular Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things only ranked seventh in Australia but second in the US, according to the company.

Australian-generated content Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth, and Chris Lilley’s mokumentary Lunatics proved more popular with Aussie viewers than Americans, coming fourth and fifth, respectively, in local rankings and not at all on US top 10 lists.

Netflix's top 10 list of 2019 releases in Australia.

Netflix’s top 10 list of 2019 releases in Australia.

Unlike Australia, the battle between Netflix and Disney played a greater role in the US rankings, given Incredibles 2 came third on its most popular movies list, while Ralph Breaks the Internet came in at No.9. Since Disney has shifted its content to its new service Disney+ the greater impact has been to Australian streaming service Stan, which is owned by this masthead. Yet the rankings show that family content isn’t as popular drawcard for Netflix in Australia as it is in the US.

One surprise on the service’s TV list for both nations: The final season of its acclaimed Orange is the New Black is nowhere to be found.

Here’s the company’s ranking of the most popular releases with Australian audiences on its platform from January 1 to December 27, 2019:

Overall

  1. Murder Mystery
  2. 6 Underground
  3. The Witcher
  4. Isn’t It Romantic
  5. Lunatics
  6. The Irishman
  7. Stranger Things 3
  8. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
  9. Triple Frontier
  10. Dead to Me

Shows

  1. The Witcher
  2. Lunatics
  3. Stranger Things 3
  4. Dead to Me
  5. The Umbrella Academy
  6. Unbelievable
  7. Dirty John
  8. Sex Education
  9. Rick and Morty: Season 4
  10. You: Season 2

Movies

  1. Murder Mystery
  2. 6 Underground
  3. Isn’t It Romantic
  4. The Irishman
  5. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
  6. Triple Frontier
  7. Aquaman
  8. The Highwaymen
  9. The Perfect Date
  10. Falling Inn Love

Los Angeles Times, with Aja Styles

Most Viewed in Culture

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