Bridgerton is Netflix's most popular show yet (according to Netflix)

As Netflix grows, so too do its shows. The first two minutes of Bridgerton were watched by 82 million accounts.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
6 min read

Bridgerton is a soapy drama set in Regency England from uber-producer Shonda Rhimes.


Netflix's Bridgerton was watched by more than 82 million accounts in its first month, making the soapy period drama the service's biggest series ever, Netflix said Thursday. That would put Bridgerton ahead of The Witcher, followed by Lupin, then Stranger Things' third season and the fourth season of Money Heist to round out the top five most popular Netflix original series. 

Netflix's popularity figures always need disclaimers. 

To start, Netflix counts a show as watched after two minutes. That's a much more generous standard than, for example, Nielsen uses to gauge the audience of shows on regular TV. Netflix has argued in the past that it needn't conform to legacy TV standards like Nielsen's, which were developed to measure the reach of advertising. Netflix, after all, has no ads. 

Still, Bridgerton, which chronicles steamy romances among debutantes and their suitors, hits the two-minute mark before the viewer has glimpsed either of the two characters in the show's main couple. Watching two minutes of Bridgerton means you've watched is 0.4% of Bridgerton. 

Netflix's stats also aren't independently verified, nor are they backed up by detailed data from the company, putting Netflix is in the position to cherry-pick highlights without much transparency. Traditional media companies, by contrast, have their box office performance independently monitored, and they're at the mercy of third parties like Nielsen as the barometer for TV shows.

Netflix declined to comment. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about viewership. The creator of House of Cards, which put Netflix's original content efforts on the map, once said the company wouldn't even share viewership metrics with him. But within the last two years, Netflix has grown much chattier about the popularity of its shows and movies to help recruit talent and stoke buzz. Netflix also added a top-trending ranking to its service, so people can see what the most popular titles streaming on Netflix in their country are on any given day. 

But Netflix's audience stats have exasperated parts of the TV industry for being unverified, unsupported and disclosed without much accountability. Even Bridgerton's latest numbers from Netflix contradict what Netflix had projected just three weeks earlier. On Jan. 5, Netflix said it projected Bridgerton's first-month audience would be 63 million accounts. Thursday's final number deviates from that by 30%. 

But as Netflix grows bigger, so too do its shows. At the end of last year, Netflix surpassed 200 million global members, further cementing its dominance of subscription streaming video. By growing its total subscriber base globally, the biggest hits on Netflix each year tend to get bigger than the ones that came before. 

Bridgerton, for example, has ranked in the top 10 of all titles streaming on Netflix in every country the service operates except Japan; Bridgerton hit No. 1 at some point in 83 countries, including the US, the UK, Brazil, France, India and South Africa. 

To compare Bridgerton's popularity to Netflix's previous viewership stats, disclosures for past titles are listed below. All the following figures are for the titles' first four weeks of release using the two-minute metric, except for Netflix's projections where noted:

  • Extraction, an action movie starring Chris Hemsworth -- 99 million accounts.
  • Bird Box, a postapocalyptic movie starring Sandra Bullock -- more than 89 million accounts.
  • Spenser Confidential, an action-comedy movie starring Mark Wahlberg -- 85 million accounts.
  • 6 Underground, a Michael Bay explosion-fest starring Ryan Reynolds -- 83 million accounts.
  • Bridgerton -- 82 million accounts. 
  • The Old Guard, an action-thriller movie -- 78 million accounts.
  • Enola Holmes, a period detective caper film -- 76 million accounts projected.
  • Season 1 of The Witcher, a fantasy series based on an existing franchise of books and  video games  -- 76 million accounts. 
  • Project Power, a dark superhero movie -- 75 million accounts.
  • Murder Mystery, a comedy movie starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston -- 73 million accounts.
  • The Midnight Sky, a sci-fi movie directed and starring George Clooney -- 72 million accounts projected.
  • Season 1 of Lupin, a French heist series -- 70 million accounts projected. 
  • Holidate, a Christmas-themed rom-com movie -- 68 million accounts.
  • Kissing Booth 2, a teen rom-com flick -- 66 million accounts.
  • Part 4 of La Casa de Papel, or Money Heist, a Spanish-language heist thriller series -- 65 million accounts projected.
  • The Irishman, a period epic about the Mafia, directed by Martin Scorsese -- 64 million accounts.
  • Tiger King, a viral docuseries -- 64 million households. 
  • Triple Frontier, an action/heist movie starring Ben Affleck -- 63 million accounts.
  • The Queen's Gambit, a limited series about a chess prodigy -- 62 million accounts. 
  • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, a sequel Santa Claus adventure movie --  61 million accounts.
  • The Wrong Missy, a romantic-comedy movie starring David Spade and Lauren Lapkus -- 59 million accounts.
  • The Platform, a Spanish sci-fi horror movie -- 56 million accounts.
  • Season 2 of You, a psychological thriller series -- 54 million accounts projected.
  • We Can Be Heroes, the kids-of-superheroes action film -- 53 million accounts projected.
  • American Murder: The Family Next Door, a true-crime documentary film -- 52 million accounts projected.
  • Seasons 1 and 2 of Cobra Kai, a reboot series of The Karate Kid -- 50 million accounts.
  • The Perfect Date, a teen romantic-comedy movie -- 48 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Ratched, a psychological thriller series -- 48 million accounts.
  • Over the Moon, an animated film about a girl traveling to a mythical land -- 43 million accounts.
  • Season 2 of Umbrella Academy, a superhero series -- 43 million accounts.
  • Klaus, an animated holiday film nominated for an Oscar -- 40 million accounts.
  • Season 5 of Lucifer, a fantasy police-procedural series -- 38 million accounts.
  • The Social Dilemma, a documentary about social-media companies -- 38 million accounts
  • Season 1 of Barbarians, a German historical action series --  37 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Love Is Blind, a dating competition series -- 30 million. 
  • Just Another Christmas, Netflix's first Portuguese-language holiday film --  26 million accounts.
  • Part 1 of Selena: The Series, a Spanish-language show about the famed singer --  25 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Sweet Home, a Korean-language horror show --  22 million accounts.
  • Season 3 of The Crown, a historical drama series -- 21 million accounts.
  • Season 1 of Alice in Borderland, a Japanese-language sci-fi thriller series --  18 million accounts.

Prior to this year, Netflix counted views differently. Netflix would count something as "watched" when you got through 70% of it, either of the first episode for a series or of a film's total runtime. Netflix says the new two-minute threshold is more fair to all titles, regardless of their length. But it also means the new stats have inflated viewership numbers by about one-third compared with the old ones. 

These are previous viewership stats under the old rules. They're figures Netflix released (or projected, where noted) for the first four weeks of release. 

  • Stranger Things season 3, a retro sci-fi series -- 64 million households. 
  • Umbrella Academy, a superhero series -- 45 million households.
  • Tall Girl, a teen rom-com movie -- 41 million households.
  • Sex Education, a British teen dramedy show -- more than 40 million households.
  • The Highwaymen, a period crime movie starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson -- more than 40 million households.
  • Secret Obsession, a movie mystery about a young wife with amnesia -- 40 million views.
  • Our Planet, a BBC-style nature docu-series -- 33 million households.
  • Always Be My Maybe, a comedy film with Ali Wong and Randall Park -- 32 million households.
  • Unbelievable, a true-crime miniseries about the victims of a serial rapist and the detectives hunting him down -- 32 million accounts.
  • Dead to Me, a dramedy series with Christina Applegate -- 30 million households.
  • Otherhood, a movie about a band of moms visiting their adult sons by surprise -- 29 million households. 
  • When They See Us, a buzzy limited series from creator Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five case -- 25 million households. 
  • Bodyguard, a BBC-World Productions series that previously aired in the UK -- 23 million member households.
  • FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary film about the Fyre Fest debacle -- more than 20 million homes.
  • Élite, a Spanish-language high-school soap series -- more than 20 million member households. 
  • Baby, an Italian teen drama series -- more than 10 million homes.
  • The Protector, Netflix's first Turkish original series -- more than 10 million households.