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The new Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock, Bird Box, has been an interesting topic of conversation of late. While Netflix has claimed record numbers of people have watched the film on the streaming service, some have taken issue with Netflix's claim. But now, Nielsen has come out with its own numbers on the new film and while Nielsen isn't reporting identical viewership, it is confirming that the movie is a hit.
The Nielsen way of handling ratings is certainly different than Netflix, and so, while there is a discrepancy in the absolute numbers, the main Netflix statement, that Bird Box saw more views in its first seven days than any other movie in the history of the service, is being held up by the Nielsen findings. The ratings company finds that 26 million people viewed Bird Box in the first week, which is up from the 20 million that Bright saw in the same period last year.
While 26 million is certainly down significantly from the 45 million that Netflix claims watched Bird Box, it's still a far from an insignificant number of people. And Nielsen's number is also simply an estimate. The company can only judge viewership based on what is reported to them so it's certainly possible that the number is much higher than what Nielsen suggests.
The major issue is that Netflix is traditionally very tight with its viewing numbers. It normally doesn't realease specific numbers for how much any particular program or movie is seen. This means there's no opportunity to verify from an outside source.
It also made the fact that Netflix simply tweeted out a very specific number quite strange. Netflix claims that 45,037,125 accounts viewed Bird Box in the first week. For a company that tends to keep numbers close to the vest, the detail seemed out of character, which made some people suspicious.
It seems that, at least anecdotally, a lot of people still haven't seen Bird Box or know anybody who has, which has made some cry foul, but it seems that, whatever way you look at the numbers, a lot of people did, in fact, see the film. It's possible that some watched simply to understand the memes that were going around, but at the end of the day, the reason doesn't really matter.
To that end, Variety reports that Nielsen's numbers do actually include some details regarding who specifically watched Bird Box. The audience was primarily young, with more than a third in the 18-24-year-old demo, female, over half the viewers were women, and diverse, African-Americans and Latinos made up just short of half the audience.
Perhaps that's why the anecdotal evidence doesn't match the numbers, it looks like Bird Box appealed to an audience that isn't necessarily what we think of when we consider moviegoers.