Netflix said Tuesday the company’s $159 million bet on “The Irishman” had paid off, a boost for the streamer as it competes against an onslaught of rival services that have recently entered the market.
The 3½-hour film, directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese, was watched by more than 26.4 million Netflix households in its first week, said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, at a UBS conference for investors in New York. Most of those subscribers watched at least 70% of the film, he said.
“The Irishman,” released on Netflix on Nov. 27, is expected to be watched by about 40 million Netflix households in its first month, Sarandos said. That would be well below other Netflix hits, such as the science-fiction thriller “Bird Box,” that drew 80 million households during its first four weeks.
Nonetheless, Sarandos said he was pleased with the response.
“We’re thrilled by ‘The Irishman’s’ performance,” Sarandos said.
Showing high-profile movies such as “The Irishman” is a key part of Netflix’s strategy to satisfy subscribers with quality content that rivals what major Hollywood studios can produce. The company will have released a record level of 18 movies in the fourth quarter, including the comedy “Dolemite Is My Name,” starring Eddie Murphy, and the Michael Bay action flick “6 Underground.”
Netlflix generated 34 Golden Globe nominations, with 17 in film, including for “The Irishman.” Netflix financed “The Irishman” after the film’s original studio, Paramount Pictures, passed on the project amid concerns about its ballooning costs.
Historically, Netflix has focused more on its overall subscriber growth and how much time people spend on the platform. But as the service has grown rapidly, it has come under more pressure to disclose how its shows and films perform.
The Los Gatos company is releasing more viewership data to help consumers decide what’s popular to watch, Sarandos said.
With “The Irishman” and other films, the company is providing an opportunity to “tell stories that otherwise couldn’t get made,” he said.
But Netflix hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with large theater chains like AMC Theatres, which has limited the reach of some Netflix movies, including “The Irishman.” The gangster movie appeared on Netflix four weeks after it debuted in theaters, compared to a roughly three-month theatrical window for a big studio movie. Ticket sales were not disclosed.
Sarandos says his intention with getting the films quickly to the consumers on Netflix is to give them more choice. He says when Netflix has released films in theaters on the same day as the streaming service, 80% of theatergoers are Netflix subscribers.
Facing increased competition from rivals including Disney+, Apple TV+ and new services coming next year,
Netflix is spending about $15 billion on content this year.
“Our goal is unchanged,” Sarandos said. “Make the movies and TV shows that you can’t live without and deliver them seamlessly.”