The Two Minutes Orgasm
Or how Netflix inflates viewership data to fool you
This is a re-post from the archive orgininally published someday in 2020.
According to a document presented by Netflix as supplementary evidence to the U.K. Parliament, the company has come up with three overlapping categories that classify its customers. The starter (those who watch at least two minutes of a film or episode), the watcher (at least 70% of a film or episode) and the completer (at least 90% of a film or season).1 Before going further, notice one striking implication: You no longer have to complete something to be a completer. Ninety per cent is enough.
That's a lot of nonsense, especially when you realise that Netflix uses the first category (starter) to advertise and promote its content, which means that if you watch two minutes of anything on their platform, you're automatically counted as a "view". That's like saying that you own a 100-page book and you've only read the first two pages, therefore you have "read" the book. Two minutes of The Irishman (2019) equal to just 0.95% of the film, yet you have "viewed" it. The way they justify these metrics is twofold. First, by watching two minutes, Netflix interprets our choice as "intentional". And second, others do the same trick and nobody says anything—they love that excuse.2
The company wants to know if I have the "intention" to watch something, but it couldn't care less if I continue watching. As long as they log that "view" after two minutes, they can brag to the world about the "popularity" of their content. The other day, I watched the first eight minutes of 6 Underground (2020) and decided it was not my cup of tea. Netflix, however, was happy to record my behaviour and report it as part of the 83 million households who "viewed" the film in the first twenty-eight days.3
The goal of this system is to conceal the truth, inflate the "popularity" of everything and benefit from it—I don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that viewership numbers are significantly less than reported.4 From my part, their lists are essentially useless and I have no intention whatsoever to report on their numbers,5 and if Netflix has the moral audacity to tell the world that I "viewed" something that I haven't, then I can rightfully review their content without "completing" it. So I'm going to watch one minute and fifty-nine seconds of The Old Guard and then turn the TV off. My tweet review will be up soon. Now, if you excuse me, I'm gonna eat two percent of my sandwich and call it a meal.
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Shaw, Lucas (15 Jul 2020), "These are Netlix's 10 Most Popular Original Movies", Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 July 2020. Link 1 (Original) Link 2 (Web Archive)
The only thing they reveal is how many accounts watched for at least two minutes, but how many million stopped and never returned after fifthteen, thirty, forty-five minutes? How many watched sixty, seventy, eighty or one hundred percent of the movie? The problem is not what the metric measures, but how it's presented by Netflix and subsequently interpreted by the masses. Someone has made the argument about movie tickets. An individual can buy a ticket and never show up to the movie theatre. The difference is that box office numbers don't claim how many people view the film. They simply report revenue. Netflix, on the contrary, is explicitly saying that a household/account "viewed" the movie. A deceiving word game.