Is Only Murders In the Building A Sign of Strength for Hulu…Or Does it Reveal How Far They Need to Go?

The Streaming Ratings Report for 26-Nov-2021

Today, Netflix’s global viewership data will start to sneak into this report. But just the initial peeks. If the Netflix data were a garden, consider these the budding flowers just poking out of the dirt. For an introduction to this new data, I wrote a “Quick Explainer On Netflix’s New Weekly Top Ten Hours Viewed Charts” over at my website. Check it out.

Meanwhile, like all weeks, there is a lot of data to parse. So let’s hop right into it, starting with film.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, Netflix datecdotes, Top Ten lists, Google Trends and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of October 25th to October 31st. Netflix’s data runs up to the week of November 15th to November 21st.)

Film

As a reminder, as much to myself as to you, my focus is on the U.S. streaming market. The rest of the world is NOT my focus because we don’t have any data on non-Netflix streamers.

And yet…

…that Netflix global data is so enticing!

For example, on Friday 29-October, Netflix released Army of Thieves, a prequel to the Zack Snyder helmed Army of the Dead that—according to Netflix’s own datecdotes—was their most popular movie in 2021 (up until Red Notice came out). Army of the Dead netted 186 million hours viewed on 75 million subscribers who watched 2 minutes.

That’s pretty good, so did the sequel have the same success?

Globally? Sure. In the U.S.? Not quite.

Let’s start with the U.S. side of the house. Over its first weekend, Army of Thieves was watched for 4.9 million hours over three days. That’s good for 61st out of 107 first run streaming films. In other words, pretty mediocre! Especially compared to Army of the Dead, which did 15.2 million in its first week. Indeed, this is one of those times where Google Trends shows the interest level (or lack thereof) pretty well:

Now we can shift globally. Army of Thieves, through its first four weeks, has been the second most watched film since June 28th, only trailing Red Notice. And unofficially, I estimate it as the 12th most watched Netflix film of all time:

So mediocre U.S. start, but very good global viewership. That’s sort of weird, isn’t it? The first film in this franchise did about three times as much viewership in the U.S. as its sequel, but Army of the Dead only did about 17% more viewership globally. In other words, and this is a fun conclusion, the weakness in the U.S. market is likely what kept the sequel from beating its predecessor.

Let’s go one step further. With this Netflix data, we can see week-to-week what films are over performing or under performing in the U.S. versus the world. Here’s a table with four films on both Nielsen and Netflix charts:

I mean, the thing that jumps out to you is that the Warner Bros produced (and box office dud) King Arthur: Legend of the Sword had more viewership in the U.S. than Army of Thieves. That’s crazy. Especially given the global numbers. (I don't know if King Arthur was available in every Netflix territory—probably not—so that could easily skew the numbers.)

This shows the difficulty in running a truly global TV network, for lack of a better word. Netflix is a “broadcast channel”, but a broadcast channel that needs to appeal to nearly every market in the world sans China and North Korea. That’s tough! What works in the U.S. may not travel abroad and vice versa. As we start to unpack these data points over the next few weeks, we’ll see more examples of this and more data points about what foreign content travels to the U.S. and vice versa.

One final fun bonus point. As What’s on Netflix pointed out, when Netflix released Army of Thieves, it helped give Army of the Dead a second life on Netflix. On the week it was released, Army of the Dead netted a Top Ten score of 17. Good for them! This isn’t the first time this has happened, but it is rare. Previously, The Kissing Booth 2 helped bring The Kissing Booth 1 back into the rankings.

Quick Notes on Film

- We’re finally at the end of October, which means Halloween time. So did we see a bump in Halloween-related films? Yes and no. On the yes side, kids films! Specifically, Disney, which saw its highest week totals for Hocus Pocus (7.9 million hours, up from 4.0), The Nightmare Before Christmas (5.2 million hours up from 2.8) and Cocomade the list for the first time at 3.3 million hours. Because Nielsen measures total viewership, except for the biggest new films, kids films with high rewatch potential do particularly well.

Onto the no. Overall, no horror films broke through. This surprised me a bit. As I mentioned the last few weeks, this isn’t for a lack of effort. Prime Video and Netflix deluged with horror films, but only Night Teeth and Hypnoticmade the lists, both with middling ratings.

- Biggest “Dog Not Barking” Candidate: Netflix wasn’t the only streamer pushing horror films. Paramount+ had not one, but two Paranormal Activity films. One a sequel (Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin) and the other a documentary on the series (Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity) both related on 29-October. Nielsen doesn’t track Paramount+, so we need to look for other sources of data. In this case, IMDb and Google Trends.

Going by IMDb, Halloween Kills has a 5.7 rating on 58K reviews. Night Teeth, Hypnotic and Paranormal Activity:Next of Kin have a 5.7 on 13K, 5.2 on 11K and 5.2 on 6K reviews respectively. So all are poorly rated, but Halloween Kills has clearly more views. This shows up on Google Trends too:

Of the new films, I’d say Halloween Kills wins, but didn’t enter the canon of great horror like say Get Out or It have done recently.

- Here’s a fun trivia point. The 2018, Bruce Willis/Frank Grillo-starring low budget action film Reprisal made an appearance as the 8th film on the Netflix weekly top ten list, with a score of 22. (But missed out on the Nielsen ratings.) It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 8% and it has a 4.3 on IMDb. The lingering question I still have is…does this help Netflix? If your eighth most watched film is Reprisal…is that good for your service?

I see some online commentators aggressively saying it doesn’t matter—that good content or bad content it’s all the same—but that honestly makes my brain hurt.

- Last week was light for films, so we didn’t have too many “dogs not barking” candidates. So I’m going to award the prize to HBO Max. They released Women is Losers on 18-Oct. They don’t release data—for shame—but again we can look at IMDb and see that it has…

204 reviews.

Total. No I didn’t drop the “K” for thousand. It has 204 reviews as of this morning. Is that bad? Yes, even for a drama. And it stars Marvel hero Simu Liu—who crushed it by the way in Shang-Chi. And not even a thousand people rated it on IMDb. That’s very bad.

Television

On the top end, Netflix has four series still performing, You, Squid Game, Locke and Key and Maid. Since we’ve gone over those a few time, let’s look at a series that just ended its run on Hulu, Only Murders in the Building.

The good news? Only Murders in the Building is Hulu’s biggest season 1 launch in my data set and their best launch this year or last year.

The bad news? That isn’t good enough.

Partly, I grade Hulu and Disney+ on a curve. Each service is about half the size of Netflix in the U.S. So if their top shows don’t get as much viewership as the top Netflix series, that makes sense. But on the other hand, the goal is to catch Netflix, isn’t it?

One chart captures this about perfectly. Here are the top seasons of all time, through 8 weeks of viewership. (Plus Ted Lasso’s recent run.) There’s a lot of red at the top, with some blue and green (for Disney+ and Hulu) in the middle.

Beyond Hulu, we can draw lessons for all the streamers. Disney+ manages to compete with Netflix, with a much, much higher hit rate for their “genre” shows. Netflix dominates through volume. Already this quarter, Netflix put three new series in the top 25 all time list. Apple TV+ has managed one hit, but no other genre series have broken through.

If Hulu does want to feel better about itself, it can always thumb its nose at Prime Video. They too only have one series in the top 25 releases of all time. And they burn spend wayyyy more of that Jeff Bezos’ cash than Hulu.

The win for Hulu is they had a show that kept several hundred thousand to a million people checking back in on their service every week. That’s the goal of a good weekly released series.

But Hulu needs more than that from its top series if it wants to compete long term.

Quick Notes on TV

- Netflix released the animated series Inside Job on 22-Oct, and it’s second full week of data earned a spot on the Nielsen ratings with 4.6 million hours.

- On the kids front, Netflix released a new season of Gabby’s Dollhouse on 20-Oct, and it earned a spot on the list with 4.0 million hours.

- Meanwhile, over on the Star Trek+ Paramount+ the latest in an endless stream of Star Trek TV series is up. This time for kids! As the Google Trends at the end shows, it doesn’t look like the latest series resonated outside of the fanbase, but if it truly is for kids that may not be the end of the world.

- Dog Not Barking of the Week: Sex, Love & Goop on Netflix missed the Nielsen ratings for the week. Welcome to this ignominious club, Gwyneth Paltrow. Normally anything with sex in it does well for Netflix, but not this time.

Competition

Due to popular demand, here’s my tracker of the Nielsen Top ten film lists by streamer:

I like this chart as well, because I think it shows that the coming fall slowdown for Disney+, Hulu and Prime Video really did come to pass. However, it shows that Disney+ has really been making strides on the film side of the house, up to six films this week on the list. As November heats up—see Coming Soon below—we’ll see how this list changes.

Datecdote of the Week

A few backs, I mentioned in the “Coming Soon” section that Prime Video had entered the fantasy battlefield of the streaming wars with Wheel of Time, based on the popular book series. And now that it’s out, Prime Video was sure to provide actual numbers for their series.

Kidding. This is what they said:

But here’s the thing, Amazon, we don’t need you anymore. We have Nielsen measurements for your shows and films. We’ll know in three weeks exactly how well your series did.

Coming Soon!

Next week, the big series I have my eye on is Dickinson on Apple TV. Will it finally break through with two seasons of episodes, or will it fade?

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving weekend arrived! And with it lots of content vying for eyeballs. Disney+ has to be grateful for not one, but two potential hit series with a live-action MCU series returning for the first time since July, Hawkeye. And yes, any adult knows that Hawkeye sucks as a character in the MCU. But it’s still Marvel. And they have the Get Backdocumentary starring the Beatles, the biggest band of all time.

As Squid Game/You wind down—and since Netflix’s big new series in November, Arcane and Cowboy Bebop are underperforming—both Wheel of Time and Hawkeye have an opening to take the top spot in the ratings. According to Parrot Analytics, both Hawkeye and The Wheel of Time are trending nearly identical in their “demand” metric.

According to Google Trends, Hawkeye edges them all out:

In other words, we have a fun month ahead for content!

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Appendix

Here are the charts I made, but didn’t mention in the report.

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