Did “The Woman King” Conquer the Charts? Plus My Thoughts on the Streamers’ Confusing Release Strategies
The Streaming Ratings Report for 17-Mar-2023
For the first time this year, the streamers finally released a lot of new seasons of television. But unlike next week, it was a fairly underwhelming crop of new series. The third seasons of Netflix’s The Upshaws and Hulu’s Wu-Tang Clan: An American Saga came out, but neither has been a ratings hit. Meanwhile Prime Video released the second season of Carnival Row, a fairly big “genre” swing for Amazon, but it also hasn’t been huge in the ratings.
Star Trek+ er, Paramount+ released another season of Picard, a show that’s “fine”.
I’d call all these series “big swings”, but mostly under-performers, which is the theme of the week. (But don’t worry: next week is huge. I’m dubbing it “the week the 2023 Streaming Wars begins”!)
The other theme? It’s good to have multiple data sources. Without which, we’d know even less about some of these shows. So thank you to ShowLabs, my latest data source for their weekly top five lists!
(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, ShowLabs, TV Time trend data, Samba TV household viewership, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Google Trends, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of February 13th to February 19th.)
Television - Different Release Styles Continue to Baffle Me
It seems like, in 2023, the streamers are starting to try new things. (Which I semi-predicted in my “ Most Important Question of the Year - 2023 Edition” article in January.) And this applies to how the streamers are releasing their shows. Not just the old “binge versus weekly release” argument (though that’s really been changing this year, especially for Netflix), but how many shows the streamers release each week and what day of the week they’re releasing those new shows on.
The streamers also seem to be, in some cases, trying to figure out what they should be doing in the first place.
For example, Hulu. It’s almost impossible to predict when or how they’ll release new shows. They released three notable new titles the third week of January (How I Met Your Father, The 1619 Project, Extraordinary) then barely put out anything for three weeks, just some true crime docs. Then during the week of 13-February, they released a documentary series about sex, a true crime doc, and their first drama series since Kindred came out in December (the previously mentioned Wu-Tang: An American Saga). (Kindred was binge-released, so it took seven weeks for Hulu to have a new episode of dramatic television, which feels like a long time to me.)
But that’s not all! In a few weeks, they’ll release two comedy series, one binge-released and one daily, in the same week! Why don't they space out these new releases? Why didn’t they release them in January and February, when there was less competition from other streamers? Or themselves?
There may be some kind of method to the madness here—release everything the same week to get people hooked!—but it also could be factors outside of their control, like production issues. Or it could just be lack of planning. Unlike the broadcast days of old, the function of “programming” may just not be established these companies yet.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that some streamers are still releasing their shows…on the same day of the week. Look at Apple TV+. They released all three of their new titles this week (remember Feb-13 to Feb-19) on a Friday, including a dramedy, a feature film, and a reality show about surfing. What’s the logic here? Does anyone have proof that Fridays are a great day to release new shows?
Of course, Netflix is playing a different game than everyone else. They released…
...six shows on a Tuesday: four foreign-language titles, one reality show, and a standup special.
...six shows on a Wednesday: three foreign-language titles, a BBC Young Adult TV show, a reality show, and a documentary.
...and all of their TV shows came out Monday to Thursday, not Friday, which is the day of the week most Netflix shows came out in the past. (I’ve had some readers push back on this, but non-Friday releases were the exception, not the rule.)
What to make of this? I’m not sure yet. I collect data on many of these things (day of the week a show comes out, binge versus weekly, and so on), but I don’t see a pattern in the release styles, mainly noise. That said, my gut suggestions/advice:
I wouldn’t release TV shows on Fridays.
I would spread out when I’m releasing new shows, to avoid releasing four or five titles on one week, if nothing new has come out for three or five weeks.
I’d release shows weekly, instead of binge, but I’m open to experimentation, like releasing three episodes, at first, then weekly after that, or five weeks with two episodes coming out each week, and so on.
Quick Notes on TV
We had two shows fall into the category of “made the ShowLabs charts, missed Nielsen” for Prime Video, a category I expect to see a lot of going forward. And that’s partially why I’m so excited about this ShowLabs data. First, Carnival Row season two came out on Prime Video, a fantasy epic, in batches of two episodes at a time for five weeks. (I like this release style.) This show just didn’t catch on—it only made it on TV Time for one week, and just barely— and it’s already been cancelled.
Second, Clarkson’s Farm has great IMDb scores for Prime Video show, with a 9 rating on 42K reviews, but Amazon just stopped working with Jeremy Clarkson (one-third of The Grand Tour team) after he wrote a much-criticized article last December. Follow-up question: Is this show an “Amazon Original”? After firing him, clearly Amazon doesn’t want it to be, and is avoiding labeling it as such, but they didn’t update all the key art...
HBO’s Euphoria made an appearance on their ShowLabs charts this week, showing the enduring legacy of that series. It holds an 8.4 on nearly 200K IMDb reviews, which is excellent. Here are the full ShowLabs charts for TV this week:
Netflix had their usual array of new shows make the charts, including Full Swing—their latest series that apes the Drive to Survive playbook/formula—and Perfect Match—their latest reality series about hot people dating/hooking up, this time using contestants from Netflix’s previous series.1 (Note: this was released in 3 four-episode batches). Interestingly, in a reverse from above, Full Swing missed the ShowLabs charts for Netflix, but that’s not unexpected given that we only have a top five list from Show Labs. At 7.9 million hours a piece, those aren’t huge numbers, but at least they made the Nielsen charts.
On the acquired TV charts, a new season of South Park came out on Comedy Central, so this boosted the library episodes on HBO Max, making this South Park’s first appearance on the Nielsen charts. The first two episodes of the latest season were “buzzy/made headlines”, making fun of Kanye and the Royals. South Park had been in a bit of a dry spell for buzzy episodes, but when they hit, they definitely drive tons of conversation.
Over on TV Time, the big debut was Star Trek: Picard. I’ve mentioned before that TV Time has somewhat of a “genre” bias, and the big interest in Picard is an example of that, given that previous seasons have done very well on TV Time. Even if Paramount+ let Nielsen release their data (and they should!), I doubt this show does THAT well. Still, it has good IMDb scores to boot (7.3 on 74K reviews), but IMDb has as sci-fi bias too! Related, Criminal Minds had a ridiculously long run on TV Time, ten weeks since the release of its new season in November.
As for other series doing well, Outer Banks made an appearance on the Nielsen charts this week, even though new episodes don’t come out until the week of 20-February. You actually saw its ratings decline week over week, which surprised me a bit, dropping down to 24.6 million hours. (This shows just how tough it is to keep a series going through six seasons in the streaming biz.)
We’re only a few months into 2023, but Apple TV+ is already leading the way with all their “Dogs Not Barking” once again. (To be fair, Shrinking has had a long run on TV Time, good enough to be one of their few hits.) This week, Hello Tomorrow!, a new retro-futuristic sci-fi dramedy from first time writers and starring Billy Crudup, failed to make the charts. So far, I’d say Ted Lasso is a big hit, and Severance, Mythic Quest and maybe Shrinking are moderate successes. Everything else? I don't know.
Other notable misses include season three of Netflix’s The Upshaws (a blow to my “Make more sitcoms!’ theory, but it’s not being released weekly and Netflix renewed That 90s Show for another season) and season three of Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga. Turns out that this show did not bring da ruckus.2 Now, eagle-eyed readers might notice that we actually have data on both of these shows: they had around 2 million or so hours, which, to be clear, is not great, especially since both shows have multiple seasons. I wrote about flat rate residuals this week for the Ankler...if I were a writer on these shows, these ratings (which formerly weren’t public) are what would worry me about future paychecks, should Hulu (or Hulu’s new owner if the streamer gets sold) and Netflix ever decide to cut costs.
Other candidates for DNBs on the TV side include smaller titles like African Queens: Njinga, a Netflix docu-drama, Red Rose, a British/BBC YA horror show that aired in America on Netflix, Hulu’s documentary series, Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne, season two of Apple TV+’s surfing reality show, Make or Break,3 and the third and final season of Animaniacs on Hulu. (Why is this on Hulu, not Disney+?)