There’s some very good news coming out of Netflix’s earnings call today for fans of The Witcher, as the series is tracking to be Netflix’s best season 1 original debut…ever.
The news comes with a massive figure. Netflix has said that 76 million households “chose to watch” The Witcher in the past month. That is a huge number, but there’s a reason “chose to watch” is in quotes. That’s because that’s a specific metric Netflix has recently introduced which says that it’s counting a view as at least 2 minutes of a show or movie being watched. This is very, very different than its old metric which declared that a view was 70% of a show or episode being watched instead, which was used when we got figures for say, 26 million households watching 70% of Bird Box in its first week.
The use of this metric raises some obvious questions, as anyone who has ever watched Netflix has probably found themselves in the situation where something starts autoplaying by accident, and enough algorithm recommendations could make that number a lot higher than it would be otherwise. But this does not count things like the autoplay trailers that show up when you hover over a title.
The good news is that this metric seems to now be consistently used across all Netflix titles, and it is at least comparing apples to apples when it says that The Witcher season 1 is tracking to be its biggest premiere season ever (by contrast, as also revealed in this report, The Crown season 3 saw 21 million for its first month).
So, two things can be true. Netflix can be using questionable, borderline nonsensical metrics, but also The Witcher can still be a huge streaming hit. And it’s a hit that has, by proxy, sent video game sales and book series soaring through the roof. The Witcher 3 is breaking launch window player records while The Witcher’s publisher just had to print 500,000 more books to keep up with demand after the show debuted.
Before any of this happened and it was confirmed that The Witcher was a hit, Netflix had greenlit season 2 of the show ahead of it even airing. It stands to reason that if audiences return, or even grow for the series, we will probably get to see the entire “vision” for the series realized with seven total original books to get through, with season 1 using parts of at least two of them. The games have been ruled out for post-book adaptation by showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich, but never say never.
Everyone is going to want to study what has made The Witcher such a hit, as many critics especially would argue that it’s not actually very good (I am not one of those critics).
I may expand on this later, but I think it’s a combination of:
1) Existing book and video game fans that got the ball rolling by starting to hype up the series when promotional material seemed to indicate it would be faithful to fans’ hope for it.
2) The void left by Game of Thrones with streaming fans wanting the next big, violent, sex fantasy series to get into.
3) I would not rule out some rather wacky theories, like Henry Cavill being so damn handsome as Geralt in the Netflix thumbnail that you will at least hover over the tile to see what that’s about. Then you’re served a very, very good introductory trailer that hooks you into trying the series. Repeat that a few dozen million times.
The Witcher is a massive hit and has fantasy fans and gamers alike feeling vindicated, not to mention those who are making the show, who are obviously ecstatic about its success. The Witcher being a hit of this level probably guarantees that Netflix will keep it around indefinitely, and I would not rule out it expanding into at least Game of Thrones-adjacent territory in terms of its pop culture influence. That may be a tall order and previously I thought it was impossible. But now? Anything seems possible.
Big day for The Witcher, Netflix’s garbled metrics aside. Expect to see this show dominate genre TV conversations for at least half of the next decade, if not longer.
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