Just last week, streaming giant Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) -- which is notoriously tight-lipped about data for its movies and television shows -- issued a rare bit of insight related to its recently released post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box, which the company said had a record-setting debut. With more than 45 million views in the first week alone, it was the best showing ever for the first seven days of a Netflix original movie -- representing nearly one-third of the company's total subscriber base.
Now, the company is issuing a stern warning to viewers, as a social-media fad based on the hit film is putting some of those very same viewers in danger.
Don't try this at home
One of the themes of the movie Bird Box is that the lead characters -- including Sandra Bullock portraying Malorie and two children, appropriately named Boy and Girl -- spend much of the film wearing blindfolds (I won't spoil the surprise).
A dangerous social-media fad, dubbed #BirdBoxChallenge, sprung from this core concept. Some of the movie's most ardent fans have set about to mimic this dystopian future by engaging in a variety of mundane, everyday activities while wearing a blindfold, then posting the videos on social media.
Some are innocuous enough. Good Morning America got into the act, having popular co-host Michael Strahan attempt to put lipstick on co-host Sara Haines while wearing a blindfold.
The majority merely involve people walking around with a blindfold on, but some have gone further -- and some would argue too far.
One shows a man blindfolding his toddler who subsequently walks into a wall. Another involves a blindfolded child driving a motorized cart around the house crashing into furniture. One of the more disturbing videos appears to show a young man who has fallen down the subway stairs after taking up the challenge in New York.
Fearing for their safety, Netflix took to Twitter to issue the following stern warning to fans:
Can't believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don't know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.— Netflix US (@netflix) January 2, 2019
What a difference a week makes
It was just a week ago that a triumphant Netflix uncharacteristically tweeted the viewership numbers for its latest hit:
Took off my blindfold this morning to discover that 45,037,125 Netflix accounts have already watched Bird Box — best first 7 days ever for a Netflix film! pic.twitter.com/uorU3cSzHR— Netflix Film (@NetflixFilm) December 28, 2018
The tweet itself generated controversy, with the inevitable questions about how Netflix came up with the number. Was everyone who even clicked on Bird Box included, or just those who watched the entire movie?
Netflix later clarified by saying a "view" is only counted when at least 70% of the film has been watched -- including credits. The company also said that regardless of how many viewers were in a household or how many times its was watched, each account was counted only once -- meaning the number of viewers was likely considerably more than the 45 million Netflix reported.
What this all means to Netflix investors
Bird Box already was a big hit as evidenced by the initial viewership numbers cited by Netflix. The viral nature of the #BirdBoxChallenge will only bring additional attention to both the movie and Netflix itself. The number of viewers is sure to soar in the aftermath of all the press coverage of the latest internet meme, and there ultimately will be those who will be curious enough to sign up for a free trial, just to see what the fuss is about.
This all points to the increasing significance of Netflix and its growing domination of streaming. Even someone who was blindfolded could see it.
Check out the latest Netflix earnings call transcript.