Netflix’s “Crazy Distribution Model” is Breaking Zack Snyder's Brain

You’ve heard of Girl Math, this is Director Math.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 13: Zack Snyder attends the Los Angeles Premiere of Netflix's "Rebe...
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In the age of streaming, measuring how well a movie does can be more of an art than a science. Traditionally with movies, success can be measured through ticket sales, a perfect per-person measure of who is interested in watching something. But once streaming is involved, things get more complicated. How do you measure a viewer? Someone who watched five minutes and then clicked away to rewatch The Office instead? Someone who made it halfway through but then fell asleep?

In a revealing new interview, Zack Snyder revealed Netflix’s internal strategies for measuring viewership, and it exposes the inflation streaming services apply to their own audiences.

Did more people really watch Rebel Moon than Barbie?


During an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, Snyder made the lofty claim that more people watched Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire than the pop culture phenomenon Barbie, which made almost $1.5 billion for Snyder’s old collaborator Warner Brothers. But he had the numbers to back it up.

Rebel Moon, right? Say right now it’s almost at 90 million views, right? 80 or 90 million accounts turned it on, give or take. They assume two viewers per screening, right? That’s the kind of math. So you think if that movie was in the theater as a distribution model, that’s like 160,000,000 people supposedly watching based on that math. 160,000,000 people at $10 a ticket would be…what is that math? I don’t know. 160,000,000 times ten. That’s 1.6 billion. So more people probably saw Rebel Moon than saw Barbie in the theater, right?”

There are a lot of assumptions happening here. Firstly, there doesn’t seem to be any credence to the “80 or 90 million” number. Deadline reported in December 2023 that Rebel Moon garnered 63 million views in its first ten days of availability, so it’s absolutely possible, but even that would put it behind Extraction.

Then there’s the biggest logical jump: Netflix assumes two people per screening. While multiple people watching the same Netflix account is common, solo watching is also incredibly popular, especially since content is viewable on personal devices. This doubling of the numbers has the possibility of seriously inflating the viewership of movies, and instantly gives Rebel Moon an edge that can’t be backed up. Usually, Netflix gets around this by referring to viewers in terms of “households,” but there’s just not the same measure of admission with Netflix as there is for cinema.

Measuring trips to Veldt vs. Barbieland isn’t as simple as mental math.

Warner Bros.

That’s not even the last of the big assumptions made in this hypothetical. Even if 160 million people watched Rebel Moon on Netflix, clicking “play” on Netflix is seriously less commitment than buying a movie ticket and going to a theater. Using those two criteria to compare these movies is incredibly difficult because the releases were so different.

Thankfully, Netflix’s official streaming viewership reports avoid all this mental math by measuring by “minutes watched,” meaning it doesn’t matter how many people watched or how many minutes constitute a “view.” Instead, it quantifies a cumulative count of watch time.

But Snyder’s comments are a reminder that streaming audience estimates are just that — estimates. As the nature of movies change, the way we measure them has to change as well. Rebel Moon may have been viewed by more people than Barbie, but the context around those views are vastly different and can’t really be quantified.

Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire is now streaming on Netflix.

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