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Netflix's The Irishman gets half of Bird Box's first month viewership

The streaming giant expects Martin Scorcese's mobster epic to stream in 40 million households in the first month.

Netflix released Martin Scorsese's The Irishman for streaming Nov. 27.

Netflix's The Irishman, the streaming giant's three-and-a-half-hour Mafia epic directed by Martin Scorsese, streamed to 26.4 million households in its first week, Neflix's content chief, Ted Sarandos, said Tuesday. And Netflix expects The Irishman's viewing to surpass 40 million homes at the one-month mark on Christmas Eve.

That would give The Irishman about half the viewership of Bird Box in the same period of time. Bird Box, Netflix's post-apolocalyptic thriller released last year during its crucial year-end holiday period, was watched by an eye-popping 80 million households in its first month. It remains the most-viewed title among the shows and movies for which Netflix has disclosed viewership stats. 

Netflix counts a movie view after an account watches 70 percent of the full runtime. Which, in The Irishman's case, is nearly two and a half hours of viewing. (For TV shows, an account needs to watch 70 percent of a single episode to count as a view.) Sarandos was speaking at a UBS conference. 

For years, Netflix was notoriously tight-lipped about how many people watch its programming, but in the last year it's loosened up -- dropping stats on viewing as a way to drive buzz about its originals and to impress Hollywood talent, filmmakers and producers. But Netflix's numbers come with 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. 

Though The Irishman's expected viewing falls short of some Netflix's biggest hits, a viewership of 40 million would put it in the same class as both The Highwaymen, a period crime movie starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, and Secret Obsession,  a mystery movie about a young wife with amnesia. The Irishman's viewership would beat Always Be My Maybe, a comedy film with Ali Wong and Randall Park watched by 32 million households, and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a documentary about the Fyre Fest debacle watched in more than 20 million homes.