Netflix invents its own popularity contest. And wins!

Disney's The Incredibles 2 was the only non-Netflix title that made it onto a ranking of 2019's 10 most popular new releases.

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Joan E. Solsman
4 min read

Stranger Things was one of the most popular things on Netflix this year, according to Netflix. 


For a little fun at the end of the year, Netflix invented its own popularity ranking, and -- spoiler alert! -- Netflix said the most popular new shows and movies on Netflix in 2019 were almost all made by  Netflix

Netflix's ranking of the Top 10 most popular new releases on the streaming service in 2019 were all Netflix originals except for one: The Incredibles 2, made by Disney's Pixar. Netflix also broke out rankings based on categories like nonfiction series, movies, comedy specials and documentaries... that were all packed with Netflix titles too. All told, eight Top 10 lists -- with 80 total spots -- were all Netflix originals except for four to six items, depending on how you count them. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about viewership. But over the course of 2019, it has been dropping stats on viewing in the hope of driving buzz about its originals and wooing Hollywood talent, filmmakers and producers. But all of Netflix's numbers always come with big caveats. They aren't independently verified, nor are they backed up by detailed data from the company. And they aren't comparable to box office figures nor the standard Nielsen ratings for TV shows. 

These latest popularity figures, however, require even more caveats: 

  • Usually, when Netflix shares a viewership number, it counts a view after an account watches 70 percent of the full runtime. In these popularity rankings, Netflix counts a title after its been watched for just two minutes. 
  • Netflix's user interface heavily promotes its original titles, and the UI also autoplays the top recommendations on many devices. That gives Netflix titles a leg up to hit that two-minute mark. 
  • Netflix isn't counting any popular titles, like Friends or The Office, that were available on the service last year or earlier. 
  • Netflix also isn't counting any viewing that occurred after the title was four weeks old on the service. So if a show or movie had enduring popularity over the course of the year, most of that interest wouldn't count to these rankings unless it happened in the first 28 days. 
  • But Netflix is counting viewing that... hasn't happened yet. A few of the most-popular titles haven't been out for four weeks yet. The Witcher, a fantasy series that's vying to pick up Game of Thrones' mantle, has been out for 10 days. 6 Underground, the latest Michael Bay movie about fast cars and explosions, has been available for a little more than two weeks. In instances like that, Netflix is using its own projections to figure out where those titles belong in the Top 10s. 

A Netflix spokeswoman told CNET that the criteria don't favor Netflix Originals because all titles, whether original or licensed, were measured the same way. Autoplayed video counts toward hitting the two-minute mark, but the spokeswoman said two minutes represents a valid benchmark demonstrating somebody's intention to watch. And the spokeswoman disputed the idea that Netflix promotes its own titles over licensed items but declined to offer a breakdown of its promotion process, beyond saying that Netflix promotes new things to members it thinks they will like.

And the company switched to two minutes from its standard 70% rule to remove bias toward short-form content, a Netflix spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal.  That is, it's easier for a series like Stranger Things to hit the 70% mark at just 35 minutes of viewing than it is for for a film like mobster epic The Irishman, which requires watching nearly two and a half hours.

And so, Netflix would like you to know that these are the "most popular" new things on Netflix this year, with non-Netflix titles in bold: 

  1. Murder Mystery
  2. Stranger Things 3
  3. 6 Underground
  4. The Incredibles 2
  5. The Irishman
  6. The Witcher
  7. Triple Frontier
  8. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
  9. The Umbrella Academy
  10. The Highwaymen

Narrowed down to just movies: 

  1. Murder Mystery
  2. 6 Underground
  3. The Incredibles 2
  4. The Irishman
  5. Triple Frontier
  6. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
  7. The Highwaymen
  8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  9. Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
  10. Secret Obsession


  1. Stranger Things 3
  2. The Witcher
  3. The Umbrella Academy
  4. Dead to Me
  5. You: Season 2
  6. When They See Us
  7. Unbelievable
  8. Sex Education
  9. 13 Reasons Why: Season 3
  10. Raising Dion

Nonfiction series, aka reality shows:

  1. Tidying Up With Marie Kondo
  2. Jailbirds
  3. Rhythm and Flow
  4. You vs. Wild
  5. Nailed It: Season 3
  6. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: New 2019: Fresh Brewed
  7. Awake: The Million Dollar Game
  8. Sugar Rush Christmas
  9. Prank Encounters
  10. Sugar Rush: Season 2

Comedy specials, which: Are there any comedy specials on Netflix that aren't Netflix comedy specials?

  1. Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones
  2. Kevin Hart: Irresponsible
  3. Gabriel 'Fluffy' Iglesias: One Show Fits All
  4. Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho
  5. Amy Schumer: Growing
  6. Bill Burr: Paper Tiger
  7. Aziz Ansari: Right Now
  8. Jeff Dunham: Beside Himself
  9. Wanda Sykes: Not Normal
  10. Mike Epps: Only One Mike


  1. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
  2. Our Planet
  3. FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
  4. Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce
  5. Don't F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
  6. Abducted in Plain Sight (released by Netflix but not branded as a Netflix original)
  7. The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
  8. The Family
  9. Street Food: Volume 1
  10. Kevin Hart: Don't F**k This Up

International releases that were most popular with US accounts: 

  1. Mighty Little Bheem
  2. Kidnapping Stella
  3. Always a Witch
  4. Mirage
  5. Burn Out
  6. High Seas
  7. Como caido del cielo
  8. Money Heist: Part 3
  9. Quicksand
  10. The Rain: Season 2

Kids and family series: 

  1. Raising Dion
  2. Green Eggs and Ham
  3. Lost in Space: Season 2
  4. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
  5. Victorious
  6. You vs. Wild
  7. Nailed it!: Season 3
  8. Fuller House: Season 5
  9. Family Reunion
  10. Mighty Little Bheem

Originally published Dec. 30, 10:42 a.m. PT. 
Update, 1:55 p.m. PT: Adds Netflix spokeswoman's comments about promotion.