At a CES 2016 keynote, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos shared some astounding news: The Ridiculous 6, the Adam Sandler-starring Netflix Original that currently has a score of 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, is supposedly the streaming website’s most-watched movie ever. According to The Verge, it earns that distinction not only among Netflix originals, but also in competition with licensed properties. Sarandos added, “It's also enjoyed a spot at No. 1 in every territory we operate in, and in many of them it's still No. 1.” If true, this is a major coup for Netflix—but perhaps some caution is in order.
As BuzzFeed senior film reporter Adam Vary has pointed out, Netflix isn’t in the habit of disclosing specific metrics for its films and series, and Sarandos failed to spell out the details of The Ridiculous 6’s alleged dominance. By “most-watched,” does Sarandos mean “watched all the way through,” or “watched for a few minutes before disappointment set in”? (The latter would be particularly easy to do when autoplay is enabled.) And are we comparing streaming numbers to other movies’ first 30 days, or other movies’ viewership overall? Ratings aside, this is a movie that was so uniformly terrible and offensive that some of its Native American actors walked off set. Without clear, solid numbers, it’s hard to know what to make of Sarandos’ claim.
On the other hand, as hard as the news is to believe initially, there is some evidence in Ridiculous 6’s favor. For one, there’s Adam Sandler’s enduring appeal, despite his recent hit-or-miss (mostly miss) fare. Also, originals tend to do the most traffic for Netflix, based on the information we do have about the site’s ratings. According to an analysis of user-generated data by Jumpshot, between July and November, every month but one saw a Netflix Original as its most-watched TV show. This makes sense, since unlike licensed material, Netflix is the only place to watch its originals. Until and unless we get some numbers, it looks like we’ll have to take Sarandos at his word. But that still leaves us with one haunting question: Who are all these people watching The Ridiculous 6?