Hulu Had a Good Summer....Just Not With The Shows You’re Thinking About
The Streaming Ratings Report for 23-September-2022
Sometimes the sheer number of releases in streaming takes my breath away. Despite having no notable new releases this week, Netflix still managed to have seven new releases…just on Tuesday August 23rd!
Sure, some of those are foreign titles—Netflix is a global streamer, so they have to release titles for each market around the globe—but still, that’s a lot of new shows! The week after this one, the week of 29-August—reminder, this report covers the week starting Aug 22—Netflix released 23 new shows. So much stuff!
And when none of those new TV shows or films manages to get over twenty million hours viewed, it’s a sign that maybe the “winning with volume” approach doesn’t always pay off.
Don’t worry, though. Even if things were light for Netflix, the other streamers provided plenty to talk about, including big stories like:
An update on “Hot August Genre” TV shows, like House of the Dragon and She-Hulk
A mini-dive into Hulu’s better (for them) month
A showdown in film between Samaritan and Me Time
Let’s get to it.
(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, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Netflix Top Ten lists, Google Trends, Samba TV, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of August 22nd to August 28th.)
Hot August Genre Showdown
For the next few weeks, expect some mini-dives into “genre” series like House of the Dragon, Rings of Power and even Stranger Things. Normally, I wouldn’t devote so much time to so few shows, but these are big, big hits. We discussed Stranger Things’ fourth season a bunch too, but honestly it probably deserved more coverage, if anything.
One reminder: I look at all these streaming ratings through a U.S.-only focus. Frankly, the U.S. has the most analytics and market research firms studying the most mature streaming market in the world, which makes it a good microcosm to study the various streaming combatants. While some global data will slip in, I’ll try to always return my focus to the U.S. of A.
(Someday, when the EntStrategyGuy empire is employing fifty people, yeah, we’ll cover multiple territories. For now, America will have to do.)
House of the Dragon (HoTD) Streaming
First, on streaming, House of the Dragon had 12.4 million hours viewed across, technically, two episodes. (Remember episode two came late on a Sunday, the very end of the Nielsen reporting period.) And that’s just streaming. It still had another who-knows-how-many people watch live and on DVR. (Actually, we do know the live numbers. See the next section.)
More importantly, HBO netted four series on the “Acquired TV” top ten charts, a record for them and non-Netflix streamers.
I would add, having only four titles on the acquired charts is a new low for Netflix, but it feels a pinch artificial since House of the Dragon feels like an Original.
Did HoTD give a bump to other HBO Max series? Yes, no and probably. Game of Thrones has never had this many hours viewed, so yes, the HoTD obviously boosted it. For Friends, probably not given that it’s had at least three weeks in the past three months over 7.7 million hours, so this is probably just noise. However, The Big Bang Theory has never had a week over 6.7 million hours before two weeks ago, and it’s up to 10.1 million. So it probably did get a bump.
This is why hits matter! They increase viewing for all of a streamer’s other shows. This is how broadcast used to work!
HoTD Live and Linear Viewership
We can officially say that HoTD live/linear viewership has stabilized Here’s the graph:
Labor Day definitely knocked HoTD’s viewership down a bit. (In the past, HBO has actually had shows skip holiday weekends for this reason.) After averaging about 3.4 million live and same day viewers through the first two episodes, that number dropped about 25% for the last three episodes. But those numbers have been steady/slowly growing, but are likely to settle in around this level. And as I covered last week, over 2.5 million live and same day viewers is still wayyyyyy more than any other non-GoT HBO series, roughly two to four times as much.
Topic 3: Netflix released a new The Sandman episodes two weeks after the first release. But don’t call it “weekly”.
When I first set up this little showdown among genre series, I thought that Netflix’s The Sandman on Netflix—as a reminder, it’s based on a seminal/defining comic book series—could contend for the top prize. And like She-Hulk (see next section!), it hasn’t really delivered, with a debut of 17.0 million hours in its first week, up to 23.1 million in its second, and then 15.8 and 11.4 million hours in the last two weeks. That’s good for 13th place overall among 162 season one debuts in my data set.
Which is top ten percent all-time! But in the battle for the “next Game of Thrones”, top ten percent isn’t enough. We need top 1%. The tippy-top debuts beat it by a wide margin; shows like Bridgerton, Squid Game and Inventing Anna have twice as much viewership as The Sandman through four weeks. That’s what elite series do.
And I suspect The Witcher performed that well too, though we don’t have data on its season one debut. We only know that the second season did very, very well in the U.S. and globally The Witcher has two of Netflix’s top ten English language seasons of all time. Honestly, The Witcher is Netflix’s true entry in the “next Game of Thrones” competition.
I’d also note, The Sandman released ten episodes initially, then surprised viewers with a bonus episode two weeks later. (And I haven’t been watching, but the episode they dropped is based on two very good issues from the comics.) Unlike Stranger Things or Ozark’s split releases, this didn’t have a big impact on its ratings decay.
Still, who says weekly, er, staggered, releases are dead?
Topic 5: She-Hulk debuted in the Nielsen Top Ten Originals chart this week!
With 6.5 million hours viewed in its second week of release. That’s some growth, but far from a juggernaut, like Stranger Things or HoTD.
Enough with the dragons and super-heroes. On to “regular” streaming coverage.
A few weeks back, I noticed that Hulu was quietly having a strong summer. Especially on the TV Time ranks. Consider these facts:
They’ve had at least one title in the TV Time ranks since the start of June.
For the week of 1-August, Hulu had the number one spot on TV Time’s film and TV charts. (Prey and Only Murders in the Building respectively.)
For one week in July, they actually had four entries on the TV Time list.
If you’ve been reading me this year, you’ll know I’ve thrown some shade at Hulu’s strategy. (See here, here or here.) But I’m not critical to be critical. I point out what the data tells me. That’s why I anointed Hulu the second place streamer in my “ranking the streamers” article in Q2!
Hulu has rebounded recently, having a much “better” summer than their spring. Of course, given how poorly I think their originals have fared in the first half of the year, I put “better” in quotes, because it really means “better for them”.