Loki Underwhelms, Football Doesn’t, and Horror Films End Up Somewhere In Between
The Streaming Ratings Report for 3-Nov-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.)
You know what’s fun for a journalist/analyst/commentator like yours truly? To put something out about a genre of film—like, say, calling “Horror” a slightly overrated genre—then have a big, buzzy example take over the news cycle that weekend. Like, say, Five Nights at Freddy smashing the box office two weekends ago:
Let’s be clear: a good thesis is more robust than one film.
For horror, individual titles can have really monster performances in comparison to their budgets, leading to great return-on-investment (ROI). But those low budgets mean that the barriers to entry in the genre are quite low, and folks often forget just how many horror films are made each year and how many of them are promptly forgotten. Or didn’t make their money back. (I could list off a dozen Prime Video or Hulu straight-to-streaming horror films that you’ve never heard of from just the last two years.)
In contrast, my goal is to look at EVERYTHING that comes out—not just the hits—and Halloween season is about to present us with quite a few horror and scary films. By looking at all of them together—not just relying on designed-to-go-viral headlines—we’ll have a better understanding of how this genre actually performs.1
So let’s get to it. In the film section below, I’ll kick off my Halloween Horror analysis for 2023. But first, a look at a few big, returning, but underwhelming streaming TV shows. That plus a new sports docu-series, the Ahsoka finale, another great ranking of the streamers from TV Time, the return of late-night, another pricey Sundance acquisition that under-performed, and a whole lot more.
Also, this issue has now come out on a Monday for the second week in a row, mainly due to my big series on which TV shows would have earned the new streaming residual. Next week’s issue will come out Monday too, due to the Veteran’s Day holiday in America. After that, I hope to get this feature back on its regular Friday release schedule.
(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 October 2nd to October 8th.)
Television - A Few Disappointing Returning Shows
Let’s just blast out a surprising number to start.
Disney+’s Loki debuted to 7.4 million hours.
Yikes! That’s low. For context, season one had 12.2 million hours and eventually grew to 18 million hours week.
Loki is just the latest in sophomore or junior seasons (second or third for non-American readers) that didn’t live up to the hype this summer, including Jack Ryan, The Witcher, The Wheel of Time and now Loki, which makes me wonder if this is a broader streaming issue.
Loki was still the seventh biggest streaming show or film in terms of unique viewers, according to Samba TV.
The first season of Loki finished very strong, so I expected a lot more from this show. Presumably so did Disney. The Marvel apathy may be real—here’s my thoughts on it from last year—but, again, a lot of shows have struggled which makes it seem like more than a Loki/Marvel issue. On to the next show...
(Reminder, Disney provides global data, not US only like Nielsen.) We also got word that this is the second biggest opening of the year, behind The Mandalorian third season, which is to be expected. Still, this probably speaks to the light Disney+ schedule more than the strength of Loki, given the soft Nielsen numbers.
Disney can comfort itself in the knowledge that it didn’t have the only soft debut this week. Lupin came out on Netflix and missed the Samba TV and TV Time weekly charts, and only had 7.3 million hours in the U.S. As a reminder, wayyyyy back in the day, Netflix released a datecdote for this show (that 76 million global customers watched at least two minutes), and we were promptly treated to stories about how Lupin was changing the game for foreign content. And yet…the US numbers have always underwhelmed me.
It also missed the Showlabs charts in its first week:
Netflix can at least point to Lupin's previous debuts (8.2 million and 6.1 million hours for seasons 1 and 1b) as evidence Lupin was never that big in the U.S.. The hype just didn’t match that reality.
We have one more disappointing debut. Lots of shows and films get branded with “Taiko Waititi” if he’s even tangentially involved, and seeing his hit rate (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows, JoJo Rabbit) I get it. But that doesn’t mean his touch is gold. The latest is the second season of Our Flag Means Death (Waititi is an executive producer and appears in the show) which has also missed most of the charts I track. It did make TV Time, but fairly low at tenth place for three weeks in a row.
It also made the Showlabs Max charts, but only in third place, which is again low:
Customers seem to like Our Flag Means Death (a 7.8 on over 35K reviews on IMDb), but the viewership leaves something to be desired. Like I’ve asked for a few shows, I wonder if an HBO release would have boosted this show’s profile overall.