Bridgerton is Netflix’s most popular show to date (according to Netflix)

Bridgerton is a soapy drama set in Regency England from super producer Shonda Rhimes.


Netflix’s Bridgerton was watched by more than 82 million accounts in its first month, making the soapy period drama the biggest series on the service, Netflix said Thursday. That would put Bridgerton ahead of The Witcher, followed by Lupine, then season three of Stranger Things and season four of Money Heist to complete the top five most popular Netflix original series.

Netflix’s popularity figures still need warnings.

For starters, Netflix counts a show as watched after two minutes. This is a much more generous standard that, for example, Nielsen uses to rate audiences for broadcasts on regular television. Netflix has argued in the past that there is no need to adhere to old television standards like Nielsen’s, which were developed to measure advertising reach. Netflix, after all, doesn’t advertise.

Still, Bridgerton, who recounts sizzling romances between debutantes and their suitors, hits the two-minute mark before viewers glimpse one of the show’s two main couple characters. Looking at two minutes from Bridgerton means you have watched 0.4% from Bridgerton.

Netflix’s stats are also not independently verified, nor are they supported by detailed company data, which allows Netflix to pick highlights without much transparency. Traditional media companies, on the other hand, have their box office performance monitored independently and are at the mercy of third parties like Nielsen as a barometer of TV shows.

Netflix declined to comment.

For years, Netflix was notoriously low-key to audiences. The creator of Card castle, who put Netflix’s original content efforts on the map, once said the company won’t even share audience metrics with it. But over the past couple of years, Netflix has become much more talkative about the popularity of its shows and movies to help recruit talent and fuel the buzz. Netflix has also added a cutting edge leaderboard to its service, so people can see what are the most popular titles streaming on Netflix in their country on any given day.

But Netflix’s audience statistics have infuriated parts of the TV industry because they have not been verified, unsupported, and disclosed without much responsibility. Even the latest figures from Netflix’s Bridgerton contradict what Netflix had projected three weeks earlier. On January 5, Netflix said it expected Bridgerton’s first month audience to be 63 million accounts. Thursday’s final number deviates by 30%.

But as Netflix grows, so do its shows. At the end of last year, Netflix surpassed 200 million members worldwide, further strengthening its dominance of subscription streaming video. By growing its total subscriber base globally, the biggest hits on Netflix each year tend to get bigger than the ones that came before it.

Bridgerton, for example, has ranked in the top 10 for all streaming titles on Netflix in every country where the service operates except Japan; Bridgerton reached number 1 at one point in 83 countries, including the US, UK, Brazil, France, India and South Africa.

To compare Bridgerton’s popularity to previous Netflix audience statistics, disclosures from previous titles are listed below. All of the following numbers are for the first four weeks of title release using the two-minute metric, except for Netflix showings where noted:

  • Extraction, an action movie starring Chris Hemsworth – 99 million counts.
  • Bird box, a post-apocalyptic film starring Sandra Bullock – over 89 million accounts.
  • Spenser Confidential, an action comedy starring Mark Wahlberg – 85 million counts.
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay explosion festival with Ryan Reynolds – 83 million accounts.
  • Bridgerton – 82 million accounts.
  • The Old Guard, an action thriller – 78 million accounts.
  • Enola Holmes, a period detective film – 76 million projected counts.
  • Season 1 of The witcher, a fantasy series based on an existing franchise of books and video games – 76 million accounts.
  • Project Power, a dark superhero movie – 75 million accounts.
  • Murder Mystery, a comedy starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston – 73 million accounts.
  • The Midnight Sky, a science fiction film directed and performed by George Clooney – 72 million counts projected.
  • Season 1 of Lupine, a series of French heists – 70 million projected accounts.
  • Holidate, a Christmas-themed romantic comedy – 68 million accounts.
  • Kissing Booth 2, a romantic teenage comedy film – 66 million counts.
  • Part 4 of La Casa de Papel, or Money Heist, a series of heist thrillers in Spanish – 65 million projected counts.
  • The Irishman, An Epic Mafia Epic, directed by Martin Scorsese – 64 million counts.
  • Tiger King, a viral docusery – 64 million homes.
  • Triple Frontier, an action / heist movie starring Ben Affleck – 63 million accounts.
  • The Queen’s Gambit, a limited series about a chess prodigy – 62 million accounts.
  • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, a sequel to Santa’s adventure film – 61 million counts.
  • The Wrong Missy, a romantic comedy starring David Spade and Lauren Lapkus – 59 million accounts.
  • The Platform, a Spanish sci-fi horror film – 56 million counts.
  • Season 2 of You, a psychological thriller series – 54 million projected counts.
  • We Can Be Heroes, the superhero children’s action movie – 53 million projected counts.
  • American Murder: The Family Next Door, a real crime documentary film – 52 million projected counts.
  • Cobra Kai Seasons 1 and 2, a reboot series of The Karate Kid – 50 million accounts.
  • The Perfect Date, a romantic teenage comedy – 48 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Ratched, a psychological thriller series – 48 million counts.
  • Over the Moon, an animated film about a young girl traveling in a mythical country – 43 million accounts.
  • Season 2 of Umbrella Academy, a series of superheroes – 43 million accounts.
  • Klaus, an Oscar nominated holiday animated film – 40 million counts.
  • Season 5 of Lucifer, a fantastic series of police proceedings – 38 million counts.
  • The Social Dilemma, a documentary about social media businesses – 38 million accounts
  • Season 1 of Barbarians, a German historical action series – 37 million counts.
  • Season 1 of Love Is Blind, a series of dating contests – 30 million.
  • Just Another Christmas, Netflix’s first Portuguese-language holiday movie – 26 million accounts.
  • Part 1 of Selena: The Series, a Spanish-language show about the famous singer – 25 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Sweet Home, a Korean-language horror show – 22 million accounts.
  • Season 3 of The Crown, a historic drama series – 21 million counts.
  • Season 1 of Alice in Borderland, a Japanese-language sci-fi thriller series – 18 million counts.

Prior to this year, Netflix counted views differently. Netflix would count something as “watched” when you have looked through 70% of it, either from the first episode of a series or the total length of a movie. Netflix says the new two-minute threshold is fairer for all titles, regardless of length. But it also means the new stats have inflated viewership by about a third compared to the old ones.

These are the previous audience statistics according to the old rules. These are numbers Netflix released (or projected, if applicable) for the first four weeks of release.

  • Stranger Things season 3, a retro sci-fi series – 64 million homes.
  • Umbrella Academy, a series of superheroes – 45 million households.
  • Tall Girl, a romantic teenage comedy film – 41 million households.
  • Sex Education, a UK teen drama show – over 40 million homes.
  • The Highwaymen, a period detective film starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson – over 40 million homes.
  • Secret Obsession, a mystery film about a young woman with amnesia – 40 million views.
  • Our Planet, a nature documentary series on the BBC – 33 million homes.
  • Always Be My Maybe, a comedy starring Ali Wong and Randall Park – 32 million homes.
  • Unbelievable, a real crimes miniseries about the victims of a serial rapist and the detectives who stalk him – 32 million counts.
  • Dead to Me, a drama series starring Christina Applegate – 30 million homes.
  • Otherhood, a film about a group of moms visiting their adult sons by surprise – 29 million households.
  • When They See Us, an animated limited series from designer Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five – 25 Million Households.
  • Bodyguard, a BBC-World Productions series that has already aired in the UK – 23 million member households.
  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary film about the Fyre Fest debacle – over 20 million households.
  • Elite, a series of Spanish-language soap operas for high schools – over 20 million member households.
  • Baby, an Italian drama series for teenagers – over 10 million households.
  • The Protector, Netflix’s first Turkish original series – over 10 million homes.

Javier E. Swan

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