Last week Netflix has released a treasure trove of information on its most popular shows and films worldwide. Sam Brooks scoured the data to see what New Zealanders have been watching, and how we stack up with the rest of the world.
Netflix has been the streaming giant for almost all of the last decade, but one sticking point from commentators, critics and audiences has always been: What the heck do people actually watch on the site?
Last week, the company gave us a peek behind the curtain. The streamer launched a new website, Netflix Top 10, that collates lists of the 10 most watched series and films on the service, in every country in which it operates. It’s a fascinating insight into what’s popular in New Zealand, now and in weeks past, and how our viewing habits differ from those in other countries.
It’s worth noting that Netflix Top 10 only highlights the platform’s top-performing content, not the stuff that’s sunk without a trace. This is hardly surprising – in recent years Netflix has been notably eager to tell the world about its hugely successful shows. You might have heard that Squid Game is the most watched Netflix show ever, just nine months after Bridgerton was the most watched Netflix show ever, just a year after The Witcher was the most watched Netflix show ever. Like those announcements, this new site is more about self-promotion than it is genuine transparency.
I’ve picked out a few of the more interesting statistics showing how New Zealand watches Netflix, what we watch, and how goddamned basic we are sometimes. Meanwhile my colleague, Spinoff head of data Harkanwal Singh, has created a couple of fun data visualisations of our favourite Netflix shows and films since July – click play on the first one below to see how the rankings have changed.
We watched Squid Game just like everybody else.
As of last week, Squid Game has been in the top 10 most watched series since its debut in October. So we’re not all that different.
But we don’t really watch a lot of foreign language shows.
Since July, the only other foreign language series to show up in our top 10 are The Cook of Castamar (July 12 – August 1), Last Madame (August 9 – August 15), The Chestnut Man (September 27 – October 32) and Hellbound (November 15 – November). These series are Spanish, Singaporean, Danish and Korean respectively.
The Father Who Moves Mountains (Romanian) and Kingdom: Ashin of the North (Korean) are the only two foreign language films to feature in New Zealand’s top 10 since the start of July .
Have you heard of any of those? Maybe not. Which brings me to my next point.
There’s a lot of stuff on Netflix that heaps of people are watching that you know nothing about
That’s a convoluted way of saying: television is being made for people that aren’t you.
While the usual suspects of what are considered “popular” Netflix shows recur in the top 10 – You, Sex Education and Sex/Life are some examples – there’s a lot of enormously popular shows that haven’t had much mainstream media coverage at all. One of these is Arcane, the second most watched series in the country, which is an animated tie-in to the video game League of Legends.
Another series which has never been a “hot” show but is beloved by its many fans is Maid, a limited series starring Margaret Qualley as a young mother struggling to break out of the cycle of poverty. It is the show that has appeared in the top 10 for the most weeks after Squid Game, at eight weeks.
There might be another reason for Maid’s success, though…
We’re watching a lot of dudes
After scanning through the past five months of top 10 shows, there’s one odd trend: most of these shows have male protagonists. Among the few women-fronted shows that made it to the top 10 are Mom, Frayed, Sex/Life, The Babysitter’s Club, Good Girls, Virgin River and Blindspot. Of these, only Blindspot and Good Girls have hung around in the top 10 for longer than two weeks.
In light of this, the wild success of Bridgerton and You, both shows whose target audience is absolutely female (or, in my case, people who love camp more than a hungry bear) makes a lot more sense. If you only give a certain audience what they crave once a year, you can be sure they’ll jump on that like the aforementioned hungry bear on an unattended pic-a-nic basket.
We don’t just watch Netflix shows on Netflix.
An interesting phenomenon here, and in non-US countries across the world, is how many shows we watch on Netflix that started life as network TV in their home country (usually the USA), but have been purchased by Netflix and rebranded as Netflix Originals. On New Zealand Netflix, these include Good Girls, Blindspot, Chicago Med and Dynasty – all of which show up in the top 10 multiple times, and for multiple seasons.
An interesting twist here is Young Sheldon, the Big Bang Theory prequel that is available on both TVNZ on Demand (a free service) and Netflix (a subscription service), where it has been a consistent top 10 presence for the last two months. That people are choosing to watch it on Netflix despite it being available for free elsewhere suggests that convenience and inertia, as much as anything else, are the keys to Netflix’s success.
We’re basic as hell
You guys, Tiger King 2 and Red Notice were our number one most watched TV show and film last week. I thought we were better than this, I hoped we were. Do better.
We move on pretty quick
Very few things stay in the top 20 for more than two or three weeks. As of last week, the only series to break being in the top 10 for more than five weeks are Squid Game (10 weeks), Maid (eight) and You (six weeks for the latest season).
This might be just the way we watch TV these days, or it might be the way that Netflix encourages us to watch it, which is all at once, right away, thank you.
Which of you got The Croods into the top 10 in the year of our Lord 2021? I know it was one of ya’s!