Netflix’s Big Data Dump Shows Just OK TV Is Here to Stay

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Netflix just did the unthinkable: It released viewership numbers. After years of withholding information on how many hours subscribers spent watching its shows and movies, on Tuesday the streaming giant released a huge trove of data. It covers 18,000 titles, breaking them all down by how many hours viewers have watched of each during the period of January to June 2023. The winner, with 812 million hours viewed? The Night Agent.

This bodes well for The Night Agent and maybe less good for people drawn to Netflix’s more esoteric fare. Because while the first season of Sex/Life—a steamy, soapy show about hooking up with a hot former lover—scored 126 million hours viewed, the first season of Sex Education—a warm, funny show about teenagers learning about intimacy and boundaries—landed just south of 28 million. The streaming giant was quick to point out that “success on Netflix comes in all shapes and sizes” and isn’t determined by this stat alone. Although, on a call announcing the numbers co-CEO Ted Sarandos put it somewhat differently: “This is the data we use to run the business.”

Netflix, then, is having it both ways—saying that numbers help it decide what shows to make, while also saying stats don’t mean everything. Two things can always be true at once, but it’s hard to imagine Netflix, coming out of Hot Strike Summer and facing a growing number of competitors, not wanting to keep pouring resources into sure things.

Not to say that more of The Night Agent is a bad thing. If you’re not one of the apparent millions of people who’ve watched it, then you’ve probably heard someone tell you, “Oh yeah, it’s … fine?” while copping to having watched a whole season in a weekend. It’s what my colleague Jason Parham likes to call “just OK TV”—neither offensive, nor boundary-pushing, just there.

This era of Just OK also comes as Netflix captures the King of Reality TV throne. Shows like Love Is Blind and Selling Sunset are becoming cultural juggernauts, and the streamer shows no sign of slowing down, especially now that the Squid Game spinoff, Squid Game: The Challenge, is getting major traction. (The show came out after the time period tracked for Netflix’s latest report, but its early viewer numbers were quite good.)

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to X.

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