Hit titles from Netflix data dump reveal distinct benefits, Magid finds

Netflix’s recent data dump may have disclosed broad viewership metrics, but according to research from consulting firm Magid, a deeper look at a few of the list’s similarly-viewed hit titles reveals distinct benefits for the service from each.  

In December, Netflix released its “What We Watched” engagement report, a broad-scope breakdown of viewership hours spent across its top titles for the first half of 2023. It charts every original and licensed title viewed for over 50,000 hours, the titles’ premiere dates and whether they were globally available. 

The report was a first of its kind for the streaming giant, a move it claimed in the name of transparency following years of competitively shielding data — and it plans to continue publishing new reports twice a year.

But as Netflix VP of Strategy and Analysis Lauren Smith pointed out on a press call regarding the report, while it is a new degree of data transparency, measuring the total hours viewed of a title isn’t everything.

Echoing that sentiment, Magid took four TV series from the list with similar overall viewership data — including two originals (Love is Blind and Wednesday) and two acquired shows (Breaking Bad and Gilmore Girls) — and used its measurement tool, EmotionalDNA (eDNA), to attempt adding dimension to Netflix’s data.

Surveying over 28,000 respondents aged 12-75 throughout the Netflix study (January-June of 2023), the tool focused on four measurements including the intensity of emotional engagement, the power to retain or acquire viewers and the ability to attract and engage high-income consumers.

Of the four selected from Netflix’s list, each show ranks highest within one of Magid’s criteria, showing that while the titles performed similarly in one broad mode of measurement (hours viewed), each title carries a different value for what it delivers to the streamer, beyond viewing hours.  

Love is Blind, for instance, tracked as the best of the four titles for high-income engagement ($100k yearly income or more) — a finding that Magid EVP of Data Science, Strategy and Product team Tony Cardinale found surprising.“People don't expect the reality show necessarily to be the show that has the most $100k+ viewers, especially when there are critically acclaimed, scripted shows on the list,” Cardinale told StreamTV Insider. The show also charted as the most popular among 18-49 year olds.  

When it came to intentionality — a segment measuring urgency and engagement with survey questions like how quickly people watched the episodes or whether they talked about it on social media — Wednesday took the cake. That’s perhaps unsurprising as Wednesday debuted in 2022 and became one of the platform’s most popular titles. The series still managed to generate high view hours on Netflix’s engagement report despite its release ahead of the tracked period. Critically acclaimed Breaking Bad, a show that finished airing over a decade ago, ranked the highest in acquisition (a title’s ability to bring in new paid subscribers to a platform). And seven-season show Gilmore Girls reflected the strongest survey data in retention (measuring the show’s power to keep subscribers sticking around).

Magid Netflix data dump chart.

‘What’ vs. ‘why’ data

The streaming industry is stocked full of people “in the business of counting things,” Cardinale said, but believes while many data sets — like Netflix’s recent engagement report — measure by means of “what data,” the “why data” is where most of the meaningful insights will be.  

“[Netflix has] the biggest library of any streamer, but what they don’t have is data [on shows] of equal quality on Amazon, Disney+, Peacock, etc.,” he explained.   

Analyzing the shows holding “that same power” to retain subscribers across the different services, firms like Magid “can look at those segments, whether they're demographic segments or genre-based [and find]: here are the shows across the landscape that you can't see, that are not in your platform and therefore you can’t analyze, the ones that are keeping people around.”

Related to retention, Cardinale added that churn continues to be one of the biggest issues in the streaming industry — but  insists not all churn is bad.

“People regard all churn as equally bad and… we read people talking about churn as if it’s one thing, one group of people,” he continued. “But what we found through this work is that there [are] really two kinds of churn.”

The first segment of churners Cardinale described as low-value, “come-and-go” subscribers. But the second high-trend segment, or “hypers” as coined by Magid, actually hold a lot of value — with shorter tenure, high resubscription rates and often subscribing to many services. Other firms like Antenna have also analyzed churn as a dyad describing the recurring subscribers as “serial churners.”

Cardinale said the presence of these “hypers” is often a healthy indication of a service tapping into culturally relevant conversations within its content, as they are “hit makers” who are more likely to talk about and share the shows that they love with friends and online.

“It's really interesting to our clients how complicated this churn thing is, and how sometimes you can have churn for better reasons, for the right reasons,” Cardinale commented.