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Dustin smiles in his camp shirt Stranger Things Season 3 Netflix

Netflix's NeverEnding Story for Stranger Things Season 3 is that it was a huuuuuuge Mind Flayer-sized hit. Netflix has already bragged about its viewing numbers, but who can really trust the streamer when it only occasionally shares figures -- when the figures are very high. However, Nielsen figures are now in to back up that, yes, a LOT of people did stream Stranger Things Season 3 over the four days of July 4 weekend.

Stranger Things Season 3 released on Thursday, July 4. According to Nielsen, Stranger Things Season 3's eight episodes had an average minute audience of 12.8 million viewers over the first four days. That "average minute audience" is apparently the closest Nielsen can get to matching streaming shows to its own average viewership for TV shows. At any rate, that 12.8 million is an increase of 21 percent over the 10.6 million for Stranger Things Season 2, using the same metric.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted, the first episode of Stranger Things Season 3 had a first-day average minute audience of 8.86 million, and that would rank it as the No. 2 show on all of TV for the week of July 1. That's only following the 14 million for the Women's World Cup final. There's no word on the 18-49 demo TV advertisers love so much, but since Netflix shows don't include ads ... maybe that doesn't matter as much? Almost a shame, since Stranger Things seems like a gold mine on that front.

Keep in mind, Nielsen's streaming video on demand ratings measure viewing only done on TV sets. As you can imagine, that leaves out a lot of people who stream from other devices. (I watched some episodes on TV, and others on my tablet.) That's part of why Netflix disputes third party measurements like this from Nielsen, saying they don't take into account other devices or showcase the streamer's worldwide reach.

Netflix produced its own figures earlier this week, saying 40.7 million accounts watched Stranger Things over four days, which would be a record for an original series.

But when Netflix does stuff like that with viewing figures, it's fair to squint and tilt your head, because it's hardly an objective source and the data isn't backed up by anything confirmed by others. So that's why it's interesting when Nielsen weighs in, since shows on regular old network and cable TV live and die by Nielsen ratings.

Here's what Nielsen reported for Stranger Things Season 3, just giving four-day numbers for each episode:

Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy? — 19.17 million viewers
Chapter Two: The Mall Rats — 17.62 million
Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard — 15.93 million
Chapter Four: The Sauna Test — 13.93 million
Chapter Five: The Flayed — 12.01 million
Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum — 10.78 million
Chapter Seven: The Bite — 7.36 million
Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt — 8.71 million

Again, that's TV-only. It's not surprising that the numbers get smaller as you go. The Nielsen figures are only from four days, and not everyone can get through all eight hours across that time. Interesting that the finale had more viewers than the penultimate episode. Perhaps some fans jumped to the end to see what happened before they were spoiled -- or maybe even after they were spoiled and heard rumors of major events?

I was one of the 19.17 million to watch the first episode of Stranger Things Season 3 over July 4 weekend. I actually finished the first four episodes during the four-day period, then took a break and finally finished streaming it all two days ago. By then, I was completely spoiled on the major events, because that's the internet for you. (Over the weekend, I was looking up the #GreysAnatomy hashtag on Twitter for updates on the new season and came across someone casually spoiling a major #StrangerThings plot point. Spoilers show up in the darndest places!)

Stranger Things Season 3 is still streaming away on Netflix, and now the count is much higher than both Netflix's and Nielsen's numbers. It's possible we'll get a Christmas special before Season 4 arrives to answer so many questions.

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