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Netflix exec: 'The Irishman' to be watched in 40 million households in 1st month

Netflix Inc. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos projects that the streaming platform's crime film "The Irishman" will be viewed by about 40 million households during its first month of release.

Speaking at the UBS Global TMT Conference on Dec. 10, Sarandos said the 3.5-hour film released Nov. 27 and starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, had been screened in 26.4 million Netflix homes worldwide during its first week, following a short theatrical run. That total is expected to reach 40 million over its first month of streaming.

The executive said Netflix's count is based on people watching at least 70% of the content. He emphasized that Netflix's math skews to households and that when it comes to films, consumers often watch in groups. That means if multiple people watched the same Netflix content together, it only counts as a single household account.

Nielsen Holdings PLC recently released data indicating that 17.1 million unique viewers watched the film during its first five days of streaming, with an average minute audience, or AMA, of 13.2 million viewers. Typically used as a TV measurement, Nielsen's AMA metric gauged time spent viewing — the average number of viewers calculated based on a movie's total run time — versus the total number of people who watched a video-on-demand title.

Netflix plans to release viewing numbers publicly on a more regular basis, Sarandos said. The company's stats are not comparable to box-office figures or Nielsen ratings, he said. "We're trying to ease it out and walk people through how to think about a viewer on Netflix versus a movie ticket buyer or a watcher of a TV show."

Sarandos hailed the company's recognition by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which resulted in an industry-best 34 Golden Globe nominations, with an equal number for its film and series offerings. The total included three best picture nods, including one for "The Irishman," which garnered five overall.

Sarandos did not provide a baseline for overall content spending next year. He said content costs would be relatively stable.

Netflix is growing viewing hours, which leads to pricing power, Sarandos said. "We've not seen an inflection point or one on the horizon that says we should be investing less than we are now," he said. "We're continuing to see positive results from the investment. So we're going to keep doing that until we see something at least on the horizon, which we've not seen."

The company saw elevated churn continue during the third quarter following a U.S. price increase early in the year. The unexpected rate of churn led to a revised forecast for full-year membership additions of 26.7 million, down from 28.6 million in the prior year.