Netflix Monday claimed Stranger Things 3 shattered viewership records for the service, and TV ratings giant Nielsen apparently agrees. The measurement company Thursday said the third installment of Netflix’s throwback thriller is shaping up to be “the most watched Netflix original series we’ve ever analyzed,” with at least 26.3 million Americans catching at least some portion of the show over the course of the four-day holiday weekend. This does not mean that many folks binged the first season or even watched the premiere episode, but Nielsen had good news for Netflix on those fronts, too.
Episode one of ST3 had an average audience of 19.2 million U.S. viewers over four days, with 8.9 million of those viewers streaming it within 24 hours of its July 4 debut, Nielsen said. The eight-episode season as a whole had a four-day average audience of 12.8 million viewers, with about 14 million viewers making it through the first half of the season over the weekend. Even more encouragingly for Netflix, Stranger Things grew its American audience between seasons. According to Nielsen’s analysis: The 12.8 million four-day viewership average for the full season was 21 percent ahead of the 10.6 million who watched over a similar frame in 2017. ST3 also has some very committed superfans, with Nielsen estimating 824,000 U.S. viewers watched all eight episodes of the show the first day it was released.
It’s worth noting that Nielsen’s streaming survey doesn’t capture the full audience for ST3 (or any Netflix show). The ratings giant doesn’t tally mobile, laptop, or tablet viewing, nor does it count any viewers outside the U.S. This is one reason Netflix’s Monday ratings tweet offered a bigger audience size for ST3. The streamer said that just under 41 million accounts “have been watching” the show during the holiday weekend — the biggest film or series launch ever for the service — and that 18.2 million accounts had finished the whole season.
In some ways, Netflix’s selective ratings tweets actually undercount the likely audience for its shows vs. Nielsen’s analysis. The latter company uses its measurement technology to estimate total viewers for a show, while Netflix just tallies up the number of accounts that have watched. As a result, if a family of four watches Stranger Things 3 on a TV set, it only counts as one “account” or “subscriber.” All of this — plus the fact that Netflix doesn’t allow independent third parties to verify its data — is why it’s important to not compare Netflix viewing to traditional ratings. We really don’t know how Netflix shows precisely compare to, say, an episode of NCIS. But between Nielsen’s stats and Netflix’s tweets, it’s pretty safe to at least assume that Stranger Things remains a very, very popular show for the streaming studio.