Netflix claims that 'The Witcher' is set to be its biggest show ever - but it's moved the goalposts

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Henry Cavill in The Witcher (Credit: Netflix)

Fantasy show The Witcher is set to be Netflix's biggest ever original how, the studio has said.

The series, which is fronted by British star Henry Cavill, landed on the streaming platform on December 20 last year.

Since then, Netflix has reported that it's been watched by 76 million households worldwide in its firt month on release.

That equates to 46 percent of the service's subscribers, but as ever with Netflix, there's considerations to be made.

Read more: The most popular Netflix releases of 2019

Firstly, its figures are not independently verified, but there's also now an even bigger caveat, in a move just announced to the company's shareholders.

Previously, Netflix counted a 'view' as a movie or TV episode that a user had watched 70 percent of or upwards.

But now – and very much playing into the hands of those critical of the platform's data transparency – a view will be logged after just two minutes.

The Umbrella Academy (Credit: Netflix)

It has justified this change by saying that two minutes is 'long enough to indicate the choice was intentional', in a letter to shareholders rounding up the fourth quarter of 2019.

“Our new methodology is similar to the BBC iPlayer in their rankings based on 'requests' for the title, 'most popular' articles on The New York Times, which include those who opened the articles, and YouTube view counts,” Netflix says in the report.

“This way, short and long titles are treated equally, leveling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length.”

But the move further blurs reliable audience figures for the streamer's shows, which even before the introduction of the new two-minute viewership criteria claimed audiences in the tens of millions for its bigger projects.

Read more: Most searched for TV shows 2019

The Witcher's 76 million viewers compares to Stranger Things' 64 million, The Umbrella Academy's 45 million and Le Casa De Papel, the Spanish heist series, which drew a reported 44 million viewers, as its biggest shows of 2019.

Of its original movies, it says that 80 million watched Sandra Bullock post-apocalypse drama Bird Box, while 73 million are said to have watched Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston comedy Murder Mystery.

A reported 17 million watched Martin Scorsese's Netflix debut The Irishman.

The Witcher has nonetheless proved hugely popular for Netflix, which is hoping the fantasy show could fill the gap left by Game of Thrones.

The swords and sorcery show, which has received mixed reviews, finds Cavill as mercenary monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, based on the books by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, which have also been turned into a series of massively successful video games.

A second season of the show was green-lit before the first even aired.