A Cruel, Cruel Summer (For Non-Netflix Streamers), Plus Did Vivo Flop?

The Streaming Ratings Report for 3-September-21

Folks, let’s call it. This is the week that Netflix won the streaming wars. Last week, Netflix owned almost every spot on the TV lists. This week they went even further: they have every TV series on the top Original and Acquired Nielsen lists. This war is over.

Kidding! 

The war is far from over, and we’ll have a fun and competitive fall. But let’s explain how Netflix took over the charts for this week, speculate why the other streamers let them, and guess how long this will last.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, Netflix datecdotesTop 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 August 2nd to August 8th.)

Share The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Television

Let’s start with the dominance of this week. As bad as my standard “last six weeks of viewing” looks for non-Netflix streamers, the “Originals” table looks even worse for Disney+, Hulu and Prime Video:

They were most likely afraid of the Olympics—see the “Anecdata” section below—and thus pushed their strongest content back a few weeks. But it wasn’t like they released nothing. Hulu, Prime Video and Disney+ all had Originals in mid-July. Notably, I didn’t talk about any of them because they failed to make it on the Nielsen rankings. Gazing at the schedules, accounting for talent/costs, and putting my finger up in the air, here are arguably the three biggest releases of the non-Netflix streamers:

Hulu: American Horror Stories season 1 on 15-July, weekly release.
Disney+: Turner and Hooch season 1 on 21-July, weekly release
Prime Video: Making the Cut season 2 on 15-July, weekly release

Those are three big “dogs not barking”. Of these launches, only one got even a whiff of a datecdote, which was American Horror Stories. It was “FX on Hulu”’s biggest launch to date. Given that I haven’t been tracking—but will start!—how many FX on Hulu series have debuted, this is fairly meaningless. (I’ve updated my “Hulu’s Vague Datecdotes” table in the Coming Soon section.) If this Wikipedia page is accurate, Hulu has released seven “FX on Hulu” branded series. Insert sarcastic hand clapping for Hulu here.

In other words, those are the three biggest TV launches of July for the streamers, and none charted on Nielsen. Sure, we could make excuses—all were weekly releases, some were season ones, maybe horror has a ceiling—but still, that’s not a lot of hits. Since the non-Netflix streamers don’t compete on volume, when they’re between hit series, it hurts. It really, really hurts. 

But here’s the thing, I’m not sure this week is really a sign of strength for Netflix either. Frankly, they have so much content, stuff has to go out the door. Even they had some “dogs not barking”:

Tattoo Redo season X on 28-July, binge release
Cooking with Paris season 1 on 4-August, binge release

Even the Originals Netflix did have that made the top ten the list this week feel weak. It’s either cheap reality (season 3 of Car Masters: Rust to Riches on 4-Aug), cheap docu-series (Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami on 4-Aug and Top Secret UFO Projects: Declassified on 3-Aug), foreign series (season one of Hit & Run on 6-July and 60 episodes of The Snitch Cartel: Origins on 28-July). I mean, The Snitch Cartel is a Colombian TV show with 60 episodes, and it only made the top ten in week 2. 

(For folks who think Netflix does all their development by algorithm what algorithm said go all in on these series? Seriously, if the algorithm says anything, it says, “Make cheap crime shows like A&E.”Did we need an algorithm to tell us that?)

So all the streamers avoided the Olympics, and that hurts the non-Netflix streamers the most. In fact, all these Netflix Originals had such small releases, you can barely see them in my weekly graph. Here’s a close up:

To be clear, the non-Outer Banks series ranked 56th, 60th, 66th and 67th out of 70 season one premieres in my data set. Not great. Car Masters: Rust to Riches and Glow Up ranked 10th and 12th out of the twelve season three premieres in my database. Third to last and dead last.

When does this reverse for non-Netflix streamers? 

Maybe in August. (Remember, we get Nielsen ratings on a four-week delay.) 

Hulu has at least one show that they’ve claimed did well in the ratings, Nine Perfect Strangers releasedon 18-August. They also have a series of buzzy shows that may end up as hits or as flops, including Reservation Dogs (9-Aug), Only Murders in the Building (31-Aug), and PEN15 (27-Aug). (Also, this analysis is focusing on TV series, not films. Disney, Prime Video and Hulu all have buzzy feature films headed to their services in August/September.)

But I’m worried about Disney+ and Prime Video. Disney+ has a while to wait, as the next live-action MCU/Star Wars series might not be until Hawkeye in November. (And let me put my biases up front as huge MCU fan: I loathe Hawkeye. He’s got a bow and arrow.) 

After that, neither Ms. Marvel or The Book of Boba Fett (the spinoff fo The Mandalorian) have release dates, tentatively on the calendar for December or “late 2021”. Sure, Disney+ has two buzzy animated series (What If…? from Marvel and Star Wars: Visions) but the data tends to show that animation has a ceiling lower than live-action. We’ll see if either of the Disney+ animated series can buck the trends.

As for Prime Video, their biggest upcoming series is Modern Love in the middle of August, and it has a legit cast. We’ll see if that can break through the noise, but I’m a pinch skeptical. Really, they’re waiting for September when a new season of Goliath launches. (And I’m bullish on that for my super sophisticated reasoning that customers like cop/legal shows.) After that, Amazon’s first bite at the fantasy apple is in November with The Wheel of Time. (The trailer dropped this week.)

We’ll leave with Google Trends, which shows that Nine Perfect Strangers is the best shot to disrupt Netflix’s dominance, but shows how big Outer Banks was in comparison:

Quick Notes on TV

- Speaking of, Outer Banks (released 30-July) stayed strong into its second week—as expected per the binge release curve—getting to 35 million hours viewed and the sixth highest single week total in 2021, for a total of 58 million hours in its first two weeks. That’s good for 3rd place among season 2 releases, trailing The Umbrella Academy (93 million hours) and Cobra Kai (60 million) through two weeks. 

- TV Premiere. Apple TV+ released Mr. Corman season one on 6-Aug. So not all the streamers were afraid of the Olympics. Unfortunately, Apple TV+ is so small, it barely generates interest. (Besides Ted Lasso.) I put Mr. Corman in the Google Trends look above, and it rated below even Modern Love.

Film

The latest film to abandon theaters for streaming was Sony’s Vivowhich they sold to Netflix. It’s a kids animated title with Lin Manuel Miranda writing the music, so when Netflix licensed the rights, presumably the sky was the limit. 

Or not. It debuted to 8.2 million hours of viewing with a Friday release. It "won the week" in film, but wouldn't have made the top ten. That’s good for the 33rd highest week one in my data set (going back to May of 2020). How does it compare to other kids titles?

In news few will find shocking, Disney looks to still be the king of animation.

Quick Notes on Film

- Film: The Suicide Squad on HBO Max on August 5th. We don’t have any data because HBO’s leadership is afraid to compete. (This isn’t quite fair, since it’s unclear how you’d count streaming viewership versus linear, but eh.) However, Samba TV has been tracking their viewership on living room TVs, reported that Suicide Squad had the highest viewership through 17 days of all “DC films” in their database, 4.7 million households. This still lagged behind Mortal Kombat. Which seems sub-optimal? And why shift to 17 days, as opposed to opening weekend or first 30 days? That's a strange number to pull out.

- Other than those, we had the usual slate of library titles premiering on Netflix and powering to a spot on the list, including 2019’s Poms, 1995’s Major Payne and 2010’s The Losers. Meanwhile, Disney’s animation rewatch slate of MoanaRaya and Luca held down the other spots.

Anecdata of the Week

Last week, I speculated that the Olympics probably took a big chunk of viewership from the streamers. While this hasn’t shown up in the top ten viewing figures, viewers did flock to the Olympics. Two numbers show this. First, in the first week of August, Nielsen says that 9 of the top 10 broadcast shows were the Olympics:

Second, Antenna—a firm that collects data from customers financial transactions—says their data shows that Olympics did indeed drive sign-ups on Peacock:

Is it great that Boss Baby drove almost as many sign-ups as Peacock, or did folks sign up for both? We don’t know, but Peacock still has a long ways to go in catching up with the rest of the streamers.

Coming Soon!

For those curious, and maybe no one is, I’ve decided to refine the “coming soon” feature just slightly. Instead of focusing on films and series releasing on the day this report comes out—for example, Shang-Chi is releasing in theaters this weekend and Sony’s Cinderella is releasing today on Prime Video—to focus on the week prior. This should let me gaze at some initial interest metrics—like Google Trends and datecdotes—so this is more of a “what’s trending” summary.

- Disney had a strong film weekend last week, with the one-two punch of Cruella shifting to SVOD on Disney+ and had Vacation Friends, the John Cena/Lil Rey Howery helmed comedy from Fox on Hulu both on August 27th. While we don’t have data for Cruella yet, Hulu was happy to announce that Vacation Friends is the latest “biggest ever all time” Hulu Original. For those keeping track (meaning me), here’s every vague Hulu datecdote in one place:

- Also, next week we’ll get the ratings for the next round of episodes for Grace & Frankie in the US. G&F is frankly an episodic monster, up to 83 total episodes, making it one of Netflix’s longest running and highest volume series. New episodes came out on August 13th, but I failed to mention it that week. Based on the weekly top ten data, it will only make it to third in the ratings, tied with Cocomelon. So keep expectations in check.