Netflix raises viewing figure questions after claiming 'Bird Box' was watched by 45 million

Ben Arnold
Bird Box (Credit: Netflix)

The new Sandra Bullock horror-thriller Bird Box from Netflix has been watched by more than 45 million people, according to the streaming giant.

But questions are being asked about what such figures really mean, and why Netflix mostly keeps its viewing numbers private.

The movie, a high-concept affair in the vein of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, finds Bullock as a lone mum in a post-apocalyptic world, leading her children on a dangerous, blind-folded journey.

Should the blindfolds come off, the horrors of the demons which now populate the outside world cause those who see them to take their own lives.

Netflix has aggressively marketed the movie – likely hoping to ape the sleeper-hit status of Krasinkski’s movie – and according to its own figures, it appears to be working.

The streaming service says it’s had ‘the best first seven days ever for a Netflix film’, in a tweet, with 45 million accounts having viewed it.

But the claim has caused some media commentators once again to question the numbers, particularly as Netflix is not verified by the same kind of outside sources that collate box office figures.

“It would be difficult, for example, to say what the activity of 45 million accounts equates to in traditional box office terms,” wrote CNN, questioning the numbers.

“It’s also unclear — though presumable — that the number reflects accounts that have accessed the film globally. (Netflix is currently available in more than 190 countries.)

“Exactly how Netflix qualifies what counts as a viewing is another question. Does the figure account for those who accidentally play the film from an auto-play option? Does it log ‘viewers’ who only watch a few seconds or the entire film?

“And is there any way to say what portion of that audience would make the effort of going to a theatre and buying a ticket to Bird Box? From the comfort of a Netflix household, the time and financial investments are far less.”

Netflix has since tried to combat the scepticism.

Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson clarified that a ‘watch’ is registered once 70 percent of the runtime has been been surpassed, meaning that it’s not counted if a user clicks on, and then clicks off the film shortly after.

It also claims that ‘each account may include multiple views and viewers but is only counted once’, meaning that multiple watches aren’t counted, and neither are multiple views in the same household, meaning that feasibly, more than 45 million people could have watched it.

However, again, these ‘clarifications’ on how the figures are pulled together aren’t independently verified either.

As Hollywood Reporter critic Daniel Feinberg tweeted:

Figures and talk of a ‘phenomenon’ aside, the movie has received decidedly mixed reviews from critics.

The Guardian said its plot has been ‘forcibly screwed together’, while Variety decried it as ‘a monster movie without a monster.

Netflix announced in October last year that it now boasts 137 million subscribers worldwide.

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