Netflix Reveals ‘Starters,’ ‘Watchers’ and ‘Completers’ Categories for Measuring Viewers

LONDON—“Stranger Things” is widely regarded as one of the most popular television series currently on air, but how Netflix measured its, and all of its other shows, viewership has been somewhat of a mystery as it does not use traditional Nielsen ratings. A recent letter submitted to the U.K.’s Parliament revealed some of the streamer’s method, sorting its viewers into three categories—“starters,” “watchers” and “completers.”

Responding to Parliament’s inquiry into “public service broadcasting in the age of video on-demand,” Netflix detailed how it shares viewership data with show creators to help determine whether a show should be canceled or not. Essentially, the streamer breaks down a show’s viewers as either a starter (watches two minutes of a film or one episode of a TV program) or a completer (watches 90% of a film or season of a show) for the first seven and 28 days a program is available. Watchers are viewers who watch 70% of a film or a single episode of a TV show; those numbers Netflix selectively shares with creators and the public, like when it announced the third season of “Stranger Things” as the “most watched season to date” with 64 million watchers.

Netflix believes that sharing starters and completers data with creatives gives “a broader understanding of how members engage with their title from start to finish. … Depending on how useful our partners find this data, we will consider sharing it in more countries outside Europe and North America.”

In a story from The Verge, it is explained that Netflix uses these numbers when considering whether a show should be renewed or canceled. That is determined, Verge writes, based on a ratio of the cost of the show to the viewership and how it helps in retaining subscribers and bringing in new ones.

During an earnings call this past January, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said that he expects the company to begin sharing more of this data with creators.