By Joe Flint
Some 26.4 million Netflix subscribers around the world watched the Martin Scorsese movie "The Irishman" in its first week on the streaming service, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said, a little more than half the number who watched its most successful original film, last year's "Bird Box," in a similar period.
"The Irishman" made its debut on Netflix the day before Thanksgiving after a three-week run in movie theaters around the country. The critically acclaimed movie stars Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino and received five Golden Globe nominations earlier this week.
Netflix counts as viewers users who watched at least 70% of the movie, which has a running time of 3 1/2 hours. Mr. Sarandos said the results run counter to the narrative that people have short attention spans.
"People still choose to have a relationship with long-form film. Really long-form film in this case," he said at the UBS Global TMT media conference in New York.
Mr. Sarandos said he expected 40 million Netflix subscribers to have watched most or all of "The Irishman" in its first month on the platform. Netflix has about 160 million subscribers, 60 million of whom are in the U.S.
"The Irishman," a sprawling tale about a mob hit man with ties to labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, cost Netflix about $175 million to make, people familiar with the matter have said. It is one of the most expensive bets Netflix has made on content.
Netflix doesn't break out viewership in the U.S. compared with the rest of the world. Last week, the ratings service Nielsen estimated that 13.4 million people in the U.S. watched "The Irishman" in its first five days of release. A Netflix spokesman declined to comment on the Nielsen number.
"The Irishman" viewership number is much smaller than that of "Bird Box, " which starred Sandra Bullock and attracted 45.3 million Netflix households in its first week of release.
Mr. Sarandos said some viewers may have watched "The Irishman" in multiple sittings. "The way people consume is just very personal," he said.
Asked about some people watching the movie on a phone, Mr. Sarandos said while that might seem mind-boggling to him and to others, it is quite natural for the younger generation and not something to get up in arms about.
"We look like old men yelling at the clouds when we do that," he said.
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