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Feb 24, 2020

Netflix to rank popularity of shows in move toward transparency

The Netflix logo is displayed on an iPhone. Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

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Netflix Inc., which has been tight-lipped about the popularity of its shows and movies, is taking another step toward transparency.

A new feature on the streaming service will show its top 10 most popular programs and movies, updated daily. Netflix has been testing the approach for about six months in Mexico and the U.K., the company said on Monday.

“Members in both countries have found them useful, so we are now rolling them out to even more,” Cameron Johnson, who oversees product innovation at Netflix, said in a blog post.

The lists should make it easier for viewers to pick what to watch. While Netflix’s algorithm is supposed to make it easy for customers to find shows, the dizzying array of choices is too much for some viewers. Customers often spend long stretches of time just deciding which movie or show to try.

Netflix, the world’s largest streaming subscription service, has frustrated the TV and film industry by not revealing its viewership. Unlike traditional TV, Netflix doesn’t make audience data available, and fans are often left wondering why a favorite show was canceled.

The Los Gatos, California-based company has begun to reveal more information -- but only selectively. In December, it disclosed its top 10 programs in 33 countries, offering the most expansive report to date of what is being watched on the service.

But no outside party verified the lists, which Netflix based on viewership in the first 28 days after a show was released. And the numbers counted people who watched at least two minutes of a program -- rather than all the way through.