If nothing else, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm garnered a lot of headlines in the last week. The movie debuted on Amazon Prime Video last Thursday to enormous controversy, much of it surrounding former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his surprising interaction with a woman he believed was a journalist during an interview conducted in a hotel suite. (In fact, the woman was an actress working for Sacha Baron Cohen as part of the shooting of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.) But how many people actually watched the movie?

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Frankly, we don’t know. Amazon just blasted out a press release hailing the film as a “great success” for their video platform, and claiming that during its “opening weekend it was streamed by tens of millions of customers.” But how many tens of millions? 20 million is a lot different than 50 or 80 million, and Amazon didn’t get any more specific than that. (Amazon currently has 150 million Prime members globally.) We also don’t know how much of the movie customers streamed. If someone watched 5 minutes and turned the film off, or scrolled to the end just to watch the stuff with Giuliani, does that count as a viewing? Again, it’s not clear.

Amazon also boasted that “a million plus fans tuned in to interact live with Borat himself and participate in a dance party with fans around the world.” All these numbers sound impressive, but they really speak to how in the world of streaming — especially in the age of coronavirus — it’s really hard to tell what is a “hit.” Did “tens of millions of customers” watching Borat Subsequent Moviefilm justify the price Amazon paid for it? How many people signed up for Amazon Prime — or decided not to cancel their Prime subscription — because they saw that Borat was coming to the service? Certainly, Borat got a lot of attention. Whether that means it was financially “successful” we’ll likely never know.

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