“When They See Us” has been viewed by more than 23 million Netflix accounts worldwide, according to writer-director Ava DuVernay, who tweeted that the streaming service had shared the numbers with her.
“Imagine believing the world doesn’t care about real stories of black people,” DuVernay wrote. “It always made me sad. So when Netflix just shared with me that 23M+ accounts worldwide have watched #WhenTheySeeUs, I cried.”
The four-episode series about the arrest, conviction and eventual exoneration of the five boys known as the Central Park Five premiered on Netflix on May 31, and it’s already having an impact, with prosecutors involved with the case losing board seats and book deals.
DuVernay has been one of the most prominent defenders of Netflix in recent months, particularly in the debate over whether the service’s original films should be eligible for Oscars. In a recent interview with The New York Times, she criticized film industry types for their attachment to what she called an “outdated” theatrical experience, and she said she chose Netflix for “When They See Us” despite having the option to make it as a theatrical film.
“The choice was easy,” she said. “Let me put it on a platform where it can actually be seen instead of chasing a theatrical release where two years from now, someone’s saying, ‘What was that? Is it going to be on Netflix?’”
You can contrast her remarks with the filmmakers behind “Crazy Rich Asians,” who said they turned down a deal with Netflix because they thought the movie would have a bigger impact in theaters.
It’s also worth noting that although Netflix has started to release viewership numbers, those numbers have been discussed with some skepticism because they’re self-reported, rather than coming from or being verified by a third party like Nielsen.