Netflix has never said how many people watch its shows. A handful of data measurement firms have attempted to quantify viewership for the streaming service’s programming, which has been met with a fair amount of skepticism.

For the first time, however, ratings standard-bearer Nielsen has publicly put a number to a Netflix series. There are just as many reasons to be skeptical about Nielsen as any other provider, but here goes.

Per The Wall Street Journal, 6.7 million people watched the first episode of “Orange Is the New Black” Season 4 in the three days following its June 17 launch. The second episode clocked in at 5.9 million viewers.

Nielsen revealed the numbers, which also include streaming data for “Seinfeld” on Hulu (706,000 viewers within five days of launch), Wednesday at its Consumer 360 conference in Las Vegas. Nielsen has been tracking streaming ratings for studios that request the data for a couple years; Lionsgate, which produces “OITNB,” and “Seinfeld” distributor Sony agreed to have their numbers made public.

The Nielsen data covers only three days of viewing. Past Netflix measurement from Symphony Advanced Media has tracked shows over 35 days, so the numbers it has reported are considerably higher — a la the 14.4 million adults 18-49 Symphony claimed were watching “Fuller House.”

The closest analog to the Nielsen numbers for “Orange Is the New Black” are the Live +3 ratings for broadcast and cable shows. The show stacks up pretty well to what was on traditional TV that week.

Both episodes of “OINTB” cited by Nielsen would have ranked in the Top 10 in Live +3 rankings for June 13-19 (here are the broadcast and cable charts). Episode 1 would rank eighth behind the last three games of the NBA Finals, “America’s Got Talent,” “Game of Thrones,” “Person of Interest” and “American Ninja Warrior.” Episode 2 would come in 10th, with CBS’ “BrainDead” (6.07 million) in ninth.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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