Netflix released the first viewership figures for Graham Hancock’s Ancient Apocalypse, and the numbers were less impressive than I expected. Netflix reported that for the week of Nov. 14-20, the show’s first full week of release, viewers of Netflix’s English-language services worldwide watched 24.61 million hours of the show. By contrast, the comedy series Dead to Me had 30.3 million hours viewed in half the time (it was released mid-week) and Warrior Nun, released the same day as Apocalypse, had 27.74 million hours viewed. All of them paled before 1899, which had nearly 80 million hours viewed in its first few days of release.
Translating these numbers into actual viewers is difficult. Ancient Apocalypse had eight half-hour episodes, so if the majority of viewers finished the show, that would calculate out to 6.2 million viewers. Apocalypse was released the previous Friday but did not make the top 10 that week, so the viewership for the weekend of Nov. 11-13 is unknow, but must be less than the 18 million hours number 10 show Cabinet of Curiosities racked up in its third week of release.
Most series’ viewership, however, falls off after the first episode as displeased viewers tune out. Some viewers also will take more than a week to watch the series. There is also no way to know if subscribers watched with friends and family.
My best guess, then, is that somewhere between 7 and 9 million people globally watched Ancient Apocalypse. According to Netflix PR, Ancient Apocalypse is most popular in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, where the show ranked in the top 10 in 31 countries. Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia had notably less interest, and the show had its lowest viewer ship in Africa.
If we assume the lion’s share of viewer’s were in the U.S. and U.K., it seems likely American viewership was larger than The Curse of Oak Island, which peaked in early seasons with nearly 4 million viewers—but the Netflix premium wasn’t as big as I would have thought. It easily outpaced Ancient Aliens, currently sitting at around 700,000 viewers, and most Science channel speculative shows, which average around 500,000 viewers. But that was a low bar.
While there are only 73 million Netflix subscribers in the U.S and Canada vs. 96 million households receiving the History Channel via cable, Netflix users are more likely to consume Netflix content, averaging 3.2 hours per day, while the only half of cable subscribers watch anything on the History Channel at least once in any given month.
In short, Ancient Apocalypse did very well for a speculative history series—up ten times better than most similar cable shows—but for all the media noise, it’s almost certain that 97% or more of Americans did not watch it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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