Season three of Netflix’s Stranger Things may or may not have been the show’s best yet, but its viewership was stronger than ever.
Netflix reported that season three of Stranger Things was viewed by roughly 64 million households in the first month following its release on the platform in July, the best showing for the series so far.
In September, Netflix renewed the show for a fourth season and signed its showrunners the Duffer Brothers to a multiyear deal. It’s unlikely either of these developments were ever in doubt, but the strong viewership numbers surely didn’t hurt.
What explains the series best viewership? There are a few potential explanations that may or may not be valid. First, if season three was regarded as the show’s best season, this would logically explain the higher viewership numbers. But although the season definitely seems to have been received very well (90% on Rotten Tomatoes), it wasn’t necessarily better received than the prior seasons (season 2, 94%; season 1 97%). So perhaps this isn’t the correct explanation for the record viewership.
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A better explanation would likely be that the show has had three seasons to build its audience, providing some time for everyone to jump on the Stranger Things bandwagon. By season three’s release, the viewer base was surely larger than heading into season two for example.
The overall growth in Netflix subscribers has surely aided the show’s growth as well. The more subscribers, the more people will likely watch a given show, especially one as popular as Stranger Things.
A lot has been made of the potential challenges on the horizon for Netflix due to competition in the streaming space (Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, etc.). A lot has also been made (by Wall Street analysts in particular) of some slowing in Netflix’s subscriber growth over the last few years. But none of this changes the fact that Netflix’s subscriber base is still consistently growing, and for shows like Stranger Things, this means more viewership. Netflix’s global subscriptions increased from roughly 124 million at June 30, 2018, to 152 million a year later.
So what should be made of all of this with regards to Stranger Things? Given the show’s high quality, its growing audience over time, and Netflix’s overall subscriber growth, it shouldn’t be very surprising that season three had the show’s best opening month viewership. The platform is selective in what viewership data it releases, however, so it’s not clear how much better it performed than season two for example (doesn’t seem this information is available). Without these numbers, it’s difficult to evaluate how much things truly changed in season three.