According to Variety, the Nielsen organization—which hangs out on tree branches looking through windows to see what people are watching on TV, or so we’ve been told—has compiled an estimation of how many people watched The Irishman in its first five days on Netflix, and while it’s an interesting bit of data to examine, it’s hard to say just what it means. Netflix has always been famously shy about releasing viewership numbers, except for when it wants to brag about Bird Box or dunk on A Christmas Prince fans, which means these Nielsen guesses are all we have to go off of. Still, it seems like good news for Netflix and Martin Scorsese, with Nielsen claiming that 17.1 million people watched the movie in its first five days.
This all gets a little muddier when we try to understand the significance of those numbers (again, Netflix doesn’t release numbers very often, so this is all based on Nielsen’s unofficial determinations). Apparently, Nielsen also tracks the “average minute audience” for Netflix stuff, which is based on “the average number of viewers calculated based on a movie’s total runtime” rather than the total number of people who watched it, and The Irishman averaged 13.2 million people over its five days—a hair under Bird Box’s 16.9 million. So, if you were to take each minute of The Irishman (of which there are many), an average of 13.2 million people saw that minute in those first five days, which means something.
To complicate matters further, Nielsen only tracks Netflix data for the U.S., so while the streaming service declared 45 million people streamed Bird Box in its first week, Nielsen’s data only says 26 million streamed (presumably because it’s only tracking the U.S.). So all of this is relative, based on other Netflix things and based on Nielsen’s tracking information for other Netflix things. We can infer that The Irishman is off to a strong start, but it’s impossible to say how that compares to pretty much anything else. The important thing is whether or not The Irishman gets some Oscars and whether or not people keep their Netflix subscription so they can watch it.