Foundation and A24, How Have They Done on Streaming?
The Streaming Ratings Report for 18-Aug-2023
(Welcome to my weekly streaming ratings report, the single best guide to what is popular in streaming TV and what isn’t. I’m the Entertainment Strategy Guy, a former streaming executive who now analyzes business strategy in the entertainment industry. If you were forwarded this email, please subscribe to get these insights each week.)
Since I had a pre-planned vacation last week, that means that this week’s Streaming Ratings Report is a big ol’ double issue of streaming ratings. There’s a lot to get into, so I’m going to keep this intro short, but...
The EntStratGuy has shown up in a bunch of places in the last month or so! And I wanted to give you a heads up...
In the Atlantic, Sonny Bunch referenced my work in another good article on theaters and the strikes. Find that here. Also, I recorded a podcast with Sonny’s “Bulwark Goes to Hollywood” podcast on all of the “Flops, Bombs and Misses of the Year So Far”, so check that out tomorrow.
I did an interview and was quoted by Ben Lindbergh for a very interesting article at The Ringer on Apple TV+, discussing the disconnect between quality of Apple’s shows versus their lackluster ratings/subscriber numbers. It’s also good, so check it out.
Finally, I talked with Nina Metz of the Chicago Tribune on background for her article Hollywood’s economics; find that yet-another-good article here.
We’ve got some juicy topics and companies to discuss, especially A24 struggles in streaming and Apple TV+’s latest very expensive show, so let’s get right to it!
(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 July 10th to July 23rd.)
Film - An A24 on Streaming Check In
It was a light week on the film side for the last two weeks, but I noticed a fun little trend. A24 had two documentaries come out this week: The Deepest Breath, about free divers, for Netflix, and a Steph Curry documentary for Apple TV+, Stephen Curry: Underrated.
And you probably know where this is going:
Neither made any of the ratings charts I track.
I’m not sure how I feel about Stephen Curry: Underrated not doing better. On the one hand, yes, I just wrote a whole article for The Ankler on how basketball content has been underperforming on streaming. Long story short, I think a lot of development execs (like me!) love basketball (especially if they’re in the same demo: 20-to-40s male living in a coastal city) but basketball-focused TV shows and films, scripted and unscripted, don’t get good viewership figures, if they get any ratings at all. There hasn’t been a Last Dance (2020) or Hustle (2022)-sized hit since those two projects came out.
That said, I think big stars can make basketball content popular (it’s not an accident that MJ’s doc worked or that HBO’s Magic/Lakers TV show was popular), and I’d have guessed that Steph Curry is that big of a star to a launch a hit documentary. That said to that, Apple TV+ is still a really small streamer, and I doubt Steph Curry is big enough to get people to sign up for their service. (More on this in the TV section...)
But this got me curious about A24. As others have written, a lot of people around town seem to think that A24 is a hit maker (“The Age of A24 Is Upon Us”) but their first $75 million grosser, Everything Everywhere All At Once, just came out last year. That’s not a great box office track record! And this applies to their streaming ratings:
In 2021, A24 produced a “Miss of the Year” with The Tragedy of MacBeth for Apple TV+. (It came out in 2021, then started streaming 14-Jan-2022.)
In 2022, Causeway (also for Apple TV+) was one of bombs of the second half of last year, and White Noise (for Netflix), which cost over $100 million, was one of our misses for the whole year. The Sky is Everywhere (Apple TV+), didn’t make the charts.
In 2023, Sharper (Apple TV+) is a miss this year.
As for the hits, I’m not sure that any of their other films have made the streaming charts aside from Everything Everywhere All At Once. (It was a staple of the Showlabs by Plum Research charts from February to May.)
A24 appears to have an output deal with Showtime/Paramount+, which brings us to the real question: does this output make sense for Paramount Global? As always, it depends on the cost of said deal. With only one real hit, I wouldn’t pay too much to license their movies, but A24 makes the occasional buzzy horror film (Bodies Bodies Bodies, X, Talk to Me).
Really, the more telling figure is how many streamers A24 has actually made deals with. At this point, they’ve made deals with Prime Video, Apple TV+ for original films, and now Showtime. If licensing A24 films made sense, those streamers would presumably re-up their deals, right? It sort of reminds me of The Criterion Collection, which seemingly every streamer has also licensed at some point...then let them move on to some other streamer.
Quick Notes on Film
The streaming film charts felt low for the first two weeks of July, with the top film again failing to surpass 15 million hours viewed. Again, it’s tough to know if this is the content’s fault or the “summer doldrums”, when potential viewers leave their houses for fresh air. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish debuted to 9.4 million hours and then 10 million hours when it came to Netflix from Peacock. Given some past animated titles, I thought I could have done better.
For original films, neither of Netflix’s two biggest swings hit in the US. They Cloned Tyrone debuted to 7.8 million hours, which is very low for one of their action films or thrillers. (It also technically a thriller/sci-fi/comedy, but you know what I mean.) It also had 755K households watch in the first three days on Netflix, according to Samba TV, which is low for top tier Netflix titles. (Remember, Extraction 2 had 2.1 million households watching four days.) The only good news is that, at a 6.7 on 23K IMDb reviews, that isn’t bad! (Though it’s not great either, just “good”.)
Netflix also released a sequel to one of their most popular films of all time—Bird Box—but this time set in Spain, Bird Box Barcelona. While everyone in the media post-Squid Game tells us that Americans now love foreign titles, readers of this newsletter know better. BBB got only 6.4 and 6.0 million hours in its first two weeks. Interestingly, Samba TV had it at a higher debut than They Cloned Tyrone at 920K households in the first four days. That says to me a lot of customers stopped watching this movie. At a 5.3 on 7K votes, the IMDb votes back up this theory.
A few other small titles showed up too. Netflix has a documentary film series called “Unknown” and Unknown: Cave of Bones showed up this week. Meanwhile, a Columbian Prime Video title, The Initiated, showed up on the Showlabs charts:
- Avatar: The Way of Water fell off the charts after a six week run. Extraction 2 fell off the charts too. Meanwhile, Nimona missed the top ten this week, but just barely, coming in at 11th place with 2.7 million hours. (It made the Showlabs charts.) Both the film 65 and The Out-laws fell in their third weeks of release
Meanwhile, the story on TV Time is that Netflix is quietly dominating the film charts again. The films may not be doing well in terms of total viewership, but in this quiet period, Netflix is taking advantage.
The other story is that Mission Impossible had a slew of films make the TV Time charts, obviously due to the new film in theaters and Paramount+ pushing them hard:
And of course we had the usual library titles show up across Nielsen and Showlabs charts including American Sniper and The Meg on Max, Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie, The Tutor and Ride Along on Netflix, and Rampage On Prime Video. Oh, and Babylon showed up on Prime Video non-exclusively (it’s also on Paramount+) and showed up on the Showlabs charts.
The two weeks we’re covering in this report (the weeks starting 10-July and 17-July) didn’t actually feature a ton of new “Dogs Not Barking” on the film side in terms of new originals. In addition to the two A24 films I discussed above (The Deepest Breath on Netflix and Stephen Curry: Underrated on Apple TV+) it was mostly documentaries that didn’t make the charts, like Max’s Glitch: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia, Hulu’s true crime film, The Jewel Thief, Netflix’s latest in its don’t-call-it-a-TV-series series of documentaries, Unknown: Killer Robots, Prime Video’s latest sports doc, Kalvin Phillips: The Road to City, and Hulu concert special, Imagine Dragons Live in Vegas. As I’ve written before, I’m much less worried about unscripted fare like this not making the charts compared to scripted, Original films.
Television - Is Foundation A “Hit”…or a “Hit for Apple TV+”…or Neither?
Apple TV+’s latest drama, Foundation, looks expensive. Just watch the trailer for yourself:
Based on a millennia-spanning space opera by the on-the-Mt.-Rushmore-of-sci-fi-authors, Isaac Asimov, if you want to tell this story, you have to shell out the big bucks. And on some metrics the show has delivered: it has very good IMDb score at 7.5 on 74K reviews and made the TV Time charts for four weeks last year and four weeks (so far) this year. Of course, then I looked at this chart:
See Foundation? Me neither.
Given its price, Apple TV+ needs this show to be a “hit”. But is it? Or is it a “hit for them”? Or is it something worse than that? I spent the last two weeks figuring out the flops, bombs and misses of the streaming wars, and frankly, a lot of Apple TV+ TV shows were very prominently involved, so its a good time to dig a little deeper into their (lack of) viewership.