14% of Shows Would Have Qualified for the WGA’s Success-Based Residual
A Super Deep Dive into the Question Everyone is Asking Post-WGA Strike
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Recently, someone asked me a fairly simple question:
“How many TV shows did Netflix release over the last year?”
It seems obvious…and yet I didn’t have a quick answer at hand. While I collect data on nearly every show that comes out on a streaming service, I haven’t actually sat down and pulled the data on “TV shows by streamer by year”.
Of course, once you start pulling at the strings of what we mean by “show”, you quickly find that something as simple as “show” has oodles of nuance.
Should I include the deluge of foreign-language titles, even though the vast majority of them never make the ratings charts?
Are we talking just scripted shows, what people tend to think of, or the similar deluge of “unscripted shows”, which make up the bulk of cable programming?
Do you want me to include kids shows? Most people don’t think of kids shows when they think “peak TV”.
See! It’s complicated.
I thought of all this in the context of the single most-asked, most-requested data dive my readers/followers have ever wanted:
How many TV shows will get the new WGA “viewership-based streaming bonus” residual?
For those who don't know, the WGA made a deal with the AMPTP (aka the Hollywood studios) to get a success-based residual (or high-performing, high-budget, streaming-video-on-demand residual). Any streaming TV show1 that gets 20% “views”2 will get a 50% increase in its annual residual. And everyone wants to know which shows would have qualified for this residual and, more importantly, how many shows, in general, will get it in the future. But that answer depends on how many shows actually are eligible for the residual. As I just said, that answer is complicated.
Normally, I’m loathe to just give out a statistic without context. I think the media and people in general have a tendency to over-share and over-hype statistics, without really providing context, nuance, or even figuring out if said statistic is accurate. Just repeating the statistic matters; providing the who, what, where, when and why doesn’t.3
All that said, that’s exactly what I’m going to do today. Because I know that that’s what 90% of people want. (But again, caveats abound and I’ll explain everything below.)
By my counts, using my best estimates:
14.3% of streaming TV shows would have earned for the success-based residual.
Some initial details/caveats, all of which I explain in greater detail after the paywall:
I used Nielsen’s data to figure this out. (There’s benefits and limitations to this dataset, which I’ll explain in depth.)
For this statistic, I only looked at season one TV shows, mainly because Nielsen doesn’t divide viewership by season.
The WGA's residual applies to scripted, mostly US-based, streaming-first original series.
This number could change in future years based on how many shows streamers release.
But that’s the number. If you’re like me, though, the journey is a reward in and of itself. So if you follow me as I explain how I got that 14.3% number, you’ll learn a ton about the streaming wars, including how many shows came out on streaming, a breakdown of every type of show that’s come out on streaming (including foreign versus domestic, scripted versus unscripted), and how many shows earned the residual for each streamer.
Mind you, this is just the first—though very detailed—part of this series. Today, we start by looking at first seasons or limited series because:
We have the best data for them.
If your first season didn’t make it, odds are your second won’t either.
In future articles, I’ll move on to streaming films. Then, if I have time, I’ll look at shows with multiple seasons, though I’ll have to make a lot more estimates there. Along the way, I’ll look at each streamer in-depth and explain my methodology.
Oh, and this isn’t a one-off project either. Going forward, I plan to update these estimates every quarter or half-year, and compare those to the number of shows getting removed from the streamers too.
If you’re a paid subscriber, bookmark the original page and you can come back here to quickly scan the article, like I did with the my series, “Theatrical Films Massively Outperform Straight-To-Streaming Films.”
Enough preamble, let’s get to it.
One Last Caution
These are my estimates. I don’t have each streamer’s data, so I can’t tell you with 100% certainty that I estimated each show’s performance perfectly. Also, I’m slicing the data on the TV shows in a number of ways so some mistakes will creep in. My promise is to try my hardest to catch those and correct the record if I make any glaring mistakes.
Part I: The Bottom Line
Between 2021 and June 2023, Out of 294 Eligible Shows, 34 First Seasons or Limited Series Probably Would Have Earned the WGA High-Budget SVOD Residual According to Nielsen’s Data.
Another 8 Series From Paramount+, Peacock and Apple TV+ Probably Earned It Too.
Remember, we’re starting with “season one” series today. That includes limited series as well. Anything with only one season in my data set.
Here is that list of season one or limited series shows released in 2021 (when Nielsen expanded to a top ten list for original shows) through June of 2023 (so that we have 3 full months of data for the show) that qualified for the residual: