Manifest is a big hit on Netflix, as many speculated. The NBC show was added to the streaming service just before the network canceled it, but it seems millions more are now aware of the show, thanks to the streaming service's dominance when it comes to entertainment consumption. Per Deadline, Manifest accounted for 2.5 billion minutes of content streamed online. This data comes from Neilsen, and it comes with some caveats. But regardless, that is a huge number, and enough to become the No. 1 title in all of streaming for the week of June 14-20.
Neilsen's data notes this is the biggest single-week hit on their charts since Bridgerton and Cobra Kai's splashy season premieres in December. It was also far ahead on the No. 2 title for the week, Disney+'s movie Luca, which was viewed for more than 1.5 billion minutes. It also beat the single week highs for Lucifer, the previous No. 1-ranked show.
However, we have to put all this in context. First off, Neilsen's data isn't perfect, as it doesn't account for viewing on mobile devices. The only true way to know how popular a streaming show really is would be to see the internal data from a company, which isn't being released often. And even when that data is put out, it is suspect, given Netflix has infamously counted mere minutes of watching a program into their total numbers. Plus, Manifest Season 3 is streaming on Hulu, but not on Netflix. It's unclear if any of those Hulu numbers are part of this total.
There have also been remarks online from fans and outlets publishing reports using this data to say, "There's no way Netflix or someone else won't pick up Manifest because these numbers are higher than many of their originals." Well, it's more complicated than that. First of all, Manifest was produced by Warner Bros. Television and broadcasted on NBC. It's first streaming window is at Hulu, with the long-term window lying with Netflix. Hulu, WB's HBO Max nor NBC's Peacock likely won't snatch it up due to the tangled-up Netflix streaming rights. Netflix is less likely to play ball with WB, due to them being a competitor in the streaming space, though, they've done it before. Plus, Netflix — who doesn't like renewing shows for long runs — already has presumably licensed Manifest Season 3 for later streaming, meaning there's less incentive for them to jump ahead and buy rights to produce Season 4.
Furthermore, that huge streaming number comes with the caveat that 29 episodes of the show (not counting the 13 on Hulu) were available to the huge Netflix audience for the first time. A new show means more people are trying it out, even if only for an episode or two. Those who do latch on to Manifest then had 29 episodes to binge. Those streaming minutes add up with a snowball effect.
If you look at Luca, it is the No. 2 title, but it earned all its numbers from one 95-minute movie. The clear math there is that Luca likely earned far more viewings than Manifest, but the minute total is higher because of Manifest's episode count. (There's no telling when it comes to individual people who watched these titles, given viewings by multiple people in the same room and the fact that family titles like Luca are ripe for re-watches.)
Looking back on previous Netflix shows' successes don't do much help, either. Lucifer had plenty of time on the platform before Season 5, Part 2 debuted. There is no telling how many people had already watched the first four and a half seasons before those new episodes debuted. Were the billions of minutes Lucifer watched from tons of established fans just watching new episodes, or were there tons of new fans bingeing through the show for the first time?
Looking at a new show like Bridgerton, those numbers came from just eight episodes. Were they all from people watching one episode and quitting, or were they viewers who stuck with the show? Netflix surely values those kinds of viewership differently. And that doesn't even take into Netflix's dreams of franchise potential for Bridgerton spinoffs, which make supporting the show more sensible.
Basically, Manifest was undeniably a hit when it joined the Netflix catalog. But it is still unclear how exactly big of a hit. Greenlighting a fourth season truly depends on the viewing economics for Netflix and other streamers, which aren't as simple as "big number equals automatic renewal." Look at Jupiter's Legacy, for example. At the end of the day, there are a lot more Manifest fans out there post-Netflix, and hopefully, they can all at least enjoy the three seasons produced for NBC.