Netflix is notoriously cagey about releasing ratings data. In 2015, the service said it would refrain from making available its viewership numbers “for as long as we can,” and despite third-party attempts to pin down the figures, Netflix has kept its rather annoying promise. In November, for example, when Nielsen reported that 15.8 million people had watched Stranger Things’ second season within the first three days of its release, Netflix balked, calling the number “not accurate, not even close.” For good measure, the company added, “Their math must be from the upside down.”
Which is why it was so strange that Netflix tweeted the following this past weekend:
Netflix’s refusal to release its ratings has so far mostly played out in the form of inter-network squabbling, with the traditional broadcasters eager to prove that their shows still can pack as much punch as the buzzed-about streaming network’s. At a time when consumers’ data is being tracked and sold by just about everywhere else on the internet, one might have even argued that Netflix’s stance was a noble one. Or at the very least, it signaled a delightful abstention from the rest of Hollywood’s box-office and TV-ratings arms race. But in singling out those 53 viewers, Netflix has reminded us that just because it hasn’t done anything with its data (yet) doesn’t mean it’s not keeping reams and reams of it. Netflix has millions of subscribers; that it can describe the activities of just 53 so specifically feels creepy. What will Netflix do next—tell the world how many times I’ve watched Bridget Jones’ Diary and correlate it with my use of Seamless and Tinder?
Netflix is also casting a bit of judgment on a Netflix original movie, A Christmas Prince, which is a Lifetime-y-looking story of a journalist who poses as a royal tutor. If A Christmas Prince is such a pathetic thing to watch 18 days in a row, then why exactly did Netflix go to the trouble of producing it? Rather than developing a consistent identity for its original programming, Netflix has sought to be all things to all people, providing both prestige programming and schlock, and the natural result of that is that sometimes its own shows will parody each other—and sometimes its Twitter account will mock its own movies.
This leaves us with 53 users who just got side-eyed by the corporate behemoth they pay for entertainment each month. Don’t let a tweet stop you from watching A Christmas Prince a 19th time, you beautiful people.