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“Candy" Has the Boldest Emmy Release Strategy Yet…Plus Firestarter vs The Lost City vs Senior Year
The Streaming Ratings Report for 10-June-2022
Any big news stories this week? Let me check:
How can I tie this to the streaming ratings? Some coverage noted that Rice, in his role as Chairman of Disney General Entertainment, had generally improved content across Disney television/streaming, including Hulu.
And that’s a problem we can apply data to, isn’t it? If you exclude Star Wars (Filloni/Favreau), Marvel (Feige) and FX (Landgraf)—the parentheses are the dev execs/creators that I give credit to—then Rice really had a hand in general entertainment Disney+, non-FX Hulu shows and ABC.
So what are the hits we’re talking about? Is Hulu lighting the world on fire? As I noted a few months back—March—not really:
Meanwhile, the next big non-branded Disney+ Original success story will be the first.
Listen, there are a lot of other issues with the Rice firing and what not. But let’s not make narrative checks our data butts can’t cash, okay?
Onto the ratings!!!
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(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, TV Time trend data, Netflix datecdotes and hours viewed data, Netflix 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 May 9th to May 15th.)
As I’ve noted all May, the streamers are desperately dropping shows to get them out in time for Emmy Awards voting. This week culminated in at least one stunt release, as Hulu’s Candy debuted daily episodes, a first for an English series in my data base. (Some South Korean series and other telenovelas have done this, but didn’t register in the U.S. rankings. Apple TV+ also did this for Preshistoric Planet later in May.) Did it work?
Yeah, kind of! Look, here’s Candy in the Originals charts:
At 9.6 million hours, that’s Hulu’s biggest season one debut in my data set. Of course, caveats. (Yeah, I can hear you, “Always with the caveats, EntStrategyGuy! Just give us overly strong conclusions!") Again, Candy had five episodes released over five days. If you compare "Viewership per Episode”, Candy’s debut drops to third place among Hulu series, behind Nine Perfect Strangers (released 3 episodes in its first week) and Only Murders in the Building (released 3 episodes in its first week).
As for other metrics, Candy debuted at 6th place on TV Time, a place it held for two weeks:
Here’s that comparison to some other Hulu shows, to give an idea for where this could be trending:
With a 7.2 on IMDb with only 6.8K reviews, overall I’d say this unusual release pattern probably helped. For a one-week stunt for a show that probably wouldn’t have sustained interest otherwise, it was a fine idea. And it’s another good debut for Hulu, which Hulu really needs. As the introduction pointed out, Hulu really struggles to launch shows into the Nielsen Top Ten.
Quick Notes on TV
- On 4-May, Netflix started releasing season 4 of The Circle, but in three batches of episodes, a strategy I love for them. The first week got 4.5 million hours of viewing, and the second part released on 11-May drove second week numbers to 6.3 million hours. Overall, in the battle of Netflix reality shows, it's behind Love is Blind, but ahead of Too Hot to Handle. Interestingly, Netflix debuted two seasons last year—my theory was they were short on content and cheap reality competitions are easy to make quickly—so we’ll see if we get another round of this later this year.
- The bigger release of the week for Netflix was their reboot of The Lincoln Lawyer. The book was adapted to the big screen in 2011 (starring Matthew McConaughey) and this TV version was shepherd by David E. Kelley. (Who has been busy, between this and Big Sky, Anatomy of a Scandal, Doogie Kamealoha M.D., Big Shot, Nine Perfect Strangers and Goliath.) The premiere debuted to 14.7 million hours, which is a good to very good debut for Netflix. That’s 19th place out of 135 debuts, so top 15% or so. Still, it’s just short of the “elite” titles, like Reacher (our top show at 30.7 million hours) or Inventing Anna/Bridgerton, which both exceeded 20 million hours.
- Last week, I was going on about “foreign film failures”. Well, here’s a foreign TV success! Welcome To Eden, a Spanish (from Spain) thriller released on 6-May, got 4.3 million hours. That’s small, but good for a foreign language title. Though, yeah, it only has a 4.9 on IMDb on 885 reviews, which isn’t great either. (This was released the week before, so this is its second week of release.)
On a consulting call with an investor, someone asked me how I’d rank Netflix’s foreign TV efforts versus their foreign film efforts. I haven’t done a deep enough dive into the data yet, but my gut is that the TV side has shown more results from a “bang for buck” perspective than the film side. Welcome To Eden is just the latest example. (And, of course, Squid Game.)
- A few weeks back, I compared Russian Doll and The Flight Attendant. At the time, it looked like it was a close match. And since we don’t get Nielsen data for HBO Max—though we do get overall viewership via The Gauge—I used TV Time data, where it was a draw. As the weeks have passed, The Flight Attendant has taken a commanding lead, making the TV Time ranks for a whopping 7 weeks so far. Notably, though, it still hasn’t been renewed by HBO Max…
- Season 6 of Workin’ Moms (Netflix) also debuted on the Nielsen Originals list. This Canadian acquired sitcom—it originally airs on CBC Television in Canada, but is branded a Netflix Original globally—made the list last year for four weeks during peak Manifest fever. It debuted to 8.5 million hours, which is fine.
- In updates to previous weeks' series, Ozark missed the 40 million hour club, and is having a “binge release curve”-style release. Though when you start from this high a point, it will hold a place on the Nielsen rankings for a while, like Bridgerton, which is still is on the list. Better Call Saul is acting like a first release title and will probably fall off the list this week or next. Grace and Frankie also had its expected drop. At times, the reliability of the binge release curve almost makes the performance of these series feel like a preordained fate than anything else.
- In licensed news, season 5 of Outlander also debuted on Netflix, netting 6.5 million hours of viewing. Outlanderhas a two year hold back from its Starz debut in the U.S.
- Last week had a fairly strong crop of “dogs not barking”—meaning titles that felt expensive or buzzy but failed to chart—but of the candidates, I’m giving The Pentaverate the crown. That show epitomizes the Netflix bloat of programming, even though its 6.1 on IMDb isn’t as bad as you’d guess. (Though it only on 7.9K reviews, which is low.) It also was only 3 hours long total, which isn’t a lot of content for viewers.
- This week had its own set of DNB candidates. HBO Max released a second season of the Emmy Award winning Hacks. Nielsen doesn’t release HBO Max data, but on TV Time—as seen above—it took a few weeks for Hacks to make the rankings, eventually coming in fourth.
Other contenders include Prime Video releasing another season—after an 27 year hiatus—of the cult favorite The Kids in the Hall, but it didn’t make the rankings. Apple TV+ continues their utter deluge of content, releasing The Essex Serpent on 12-May. The Quest on Disney+ is an interesting take on a kids reality series, but at a 3.6 on IMDb is pretty bad. Paramount+ had Never Seen Again, and we don’t get Paramount+ data—release your ratings!—but it also missed TV Time. Meanwhile, Netflix reality series Bling Empire also debuted a second season which missed the rankings. The previous season only made the Nielsen rankings for one week.
This week—reminder for the week starting 9-May—we had three big streaming film releases with three different release styles:
- The Lost City: A theatrically-released title arrived on Paramount+ on 10-May
- Firestarter: A day-and-date theatrical/streaming title on Peacock on 12-May
- Senior Year: A straight-to-streaming title on Netflix on 12-May
Interestingly, that’s also the IMDb review score order, with The Lost City at 6.2, Senior Year at 5.5 and Firestarter at a 4.6. That means these films weren’t great. And it’s hard for films which aren’t great to do well in the rankings. We’re also at a data deficit for two of these titles. Paramount+ and Peacock don’t release streaming data via Nielsen. Also, Senior Year was a title Paramount sold to Netflix. Given its IMDb score, that feels like a smart move now, doesn’t it?
Onto the data. On Nielsen, Senior Year debuted to 13.3 million hours, good for 26th place out of 165 first-run films in my data set. That’s good!
On TV Time, Senior Year had the longest run, though The Lost City burned brighter to start:
I’d call that a draw. Over at Samba TV, we got data points for all three. Senior Year netted 1.6 million households in its first three days, and The Lost City earned 1.5 million over its first six. (It was released on a Monday.) I’d say that’s a win for Paramount+, simply because it means they’re within striking distance of Netflix, a service that is three to four times its size. Firestarter, on the other hand, only had 410K households in its opening weekend, which isn’t great.
Quick Notes on Film
- Among other first-run streaming films, Marmaduke made the rankings in its second week, but with a lowly 4.5 million hours. (Still it avoided a “dog not barking” fate, pun not intended.) British war drama Operation Mincemeatmade 5.7 million hours in its debut. (Notably, Warner Bros released it theatrically in Britain.) And Netflix’s Our Father—produced by Jason Blum—is the surprise hit, with 7.5 million hours for a documentary. That’s good! (Though it’s a “true crime” documentary, and we know that this genre over-performs on Netlfix.)
- Of the acquired film, Happy Gilmore is the new entry with 2.5 million hours. Notably, it is leaving Netflix in July, so get your Adam Sandler fix in now. Meanwhile, of the six licensed titles that made the Nielsen rankings last week, only U.S. Marshals and Den of Thieves held on for a second week.
- In the rare “Special” category, I just want to highlight that NBC aired the 2022 Billboard Music Awards. Which by themselves had 3.2 million household watch on the first night. Broadcast is dead, am I right? In seriousness, for streaming to truly replace broadcast, it needs to guarantee numbers like that for its specials.
Also, for comparison, that 3.2 number is basically bigger than anything on streaming through its first weekend. Bridgerton? It took three days to get 1.6 million households. You? Four days for 1.7 million households. Moon Knight? It took five days to get to 1.8 million households
(We never did hear how the Academy of Country Music Awards did on Prime Video, did we? Wonder why. You think it was because the numbers were SO good they wanted to hide them? Or that they were so low it would hurt their perception? Trust me, I tried every source I could to get data on this, but no one would share.)
- The two “dog not barking” candidates for film are Old, the Universal film that came to HBO/HBO Max on 13-May and Sneakerella on Disney+.
Next week, films will dominate the conversation. Top Gun (the 1986 film) will start making some noise, even before the sequel hits theaters. Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers will test Disney’s straight-to-streaming model. Meanwhile, the other fare is a bit more esoteric, like Love, Death & Robots on Netflix and Angelyne on Peacock.
Looking to June, we’ll skew more genre, with The Orville: New Horizons going up against The Boys. (My money is on the latter.)
Much longer term, two streaming series got dates on the August release calendar. As the NBA learned during Covid-19, August really is a dead month, so we’ll see if all the high and low concept fantasy series can break through. Specifically, Netflix’s Sandman will premiere two weeks before HBO’s House of the Dragon, which is two weeks before Amazon’s The Rings of Power.