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Nielsen confirms that Stranger Things 3 was a big hit for Netflix

Nielsen Media Research has released its ratings for the latest season of Netflix’s Stranger Things, showing that ratings for the third season over the first four days of release were significantly higher than for the second season. Those numbers back up Netflix’s assertion that the show broke records, although they highlight the differences in how both companies measure their audiences.

On Monday, Netflix announced that at least 40.7 million accounts watched the series since its premiere on July 4th, “more than any other [Netflix] film or series in its first four days.” The company said 18.2 million of those accounts had already finished the entire season. The company counts a “view” as an account finishing at least 70 percent of an episode or film.

Nielsen has produced ratings for the television industry for decades, and has been tracking figures for streaming services in recent years. Its figures for Stranger Things 3 are a bit more granular: the company says 19.17 million viewers watched the first episode between July 4th and 8th, topping the 17.7 million people who watched the first episode of season 2 back in 2017. The numbers predictably drop off a bit as the series goes on, with an average of 8.86 million viewers per episode. And the episode-to-episode ratings show that nearly 1.35 million viewers skipped episode 7 in favor of jumping right to the season finale. The company also says 824,000 people watched the entire series on July 4th. To put that into perspective, The Hollywood Reporter notes that that would put the series as the second most-watched program during that time period, right behind the Women’s World Cup final.

The two sets of numbers don’t entirely line up. THR says Nielsen’s numbers only cover viewers who watched the show on a TV set. Netflix has previously announced that it views Nielsen ratings as “remarkably inaccurate,” because they don’t cover the range of other devices that can stream the company’s content.

Given Netflix’s reluctance to come forward with viewer information, though, it’s hard to take its figures at face value, without independent verification. However, the company has announced plans to start being more transparent with viewers. The company has released ratings for particularly successful programs — it recently trumpeted that 45 million accounts watched the original Netflix horror film Bird Box in its first seven days.

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