Marketing Works! Boss Baby Shows the Power of Old Fashioned Campaigns

The Streaming Ratings Report for 6-August-2021

- The Boss Baby film (on Peacock) drove additional viewership to the Boss Baby TV series (on Netflix).
- Black Widow surpassed Mulan for PVOD viewership in its first weekend. 
- Virgin River did very strong numbers for Netflix, with 24.2 million hours viewed.
- The Tomorrow War and Luca both continue to hold very strong into their second and fourth weekends of release. They are now the first and third most popular streaming debuts.

Just last week, I was warning you about analysts hyping the latest thing as “the greatest ever”. So to be a bit of a hypocrite, I’m fairly ecstatic to tell you that we did have a TV show break a record this week! But not the good type: 

For the first time—in my data set—a US Netflix failed to make it into the Netflix or Nielsen Top Tens! 

Which show was it? And what does this mean? Scroll down to TV to find out. 

The most fun story in ratings news this week though is, and was always going to be, on the film side. Specifically Black Widow.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, Netflix datecdotes, 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 July 5th to July 11th.)

Film

As usual, here’s the top films released in the last four weeks:

When Disney decided to release Black Widow “day-and-date”—meaning the same day on TV/streaming as in theaters—I circled two dates on the calendar. First, the day Nielsen ratings came out for its PVOD release. The second will be in November, when Nielsen ratings come for its SVOD release on Disney+. So how did it do?

That’s actually sneakily really good. It looks like Black Widow “only” did as well as Mulan, but that was Mulan’s only window. Black Widow tossed in an extra $80 million in domestic box office in that first weekend and $176 million in global box office to date. 

That said, it’s hard to look past how much larger the straight-to-streaming titles are. Again, this isn’t a change or even an argument that Disney should put all their films straight-to-streaming. (Which is an argument I see all the time.) An argument made by business analysts who seemingly don’t understand the basic laws of supply and demand taught in economics 101. Yes, if you lower the price for a good, you sell more of it. Is this shocking?

I mean, if you can get 1/3rd as many people (and way more counting theaters) to pay you twice the monthly subscription to get early access to a film, those economics are MUCH better than straight-to-streaming releases. Are they better than wide theatrical release? That’s a different, more complicated question.

The story of Black Widow is still being told. First, we need to see how its box office continues to decline. (Though that story is heavily complicated by the Delta variant of Covid-19.) Then we need to see how its SVOD debut performs. (Some folks, like me, are waiting for that. Not that I didn’t want to see it in theaters, just that I couldn’t get out of the house with kids. And don’t feel like paying for PVOD if I can simply wait 90 days.) Then we need to repeat this test with multiple other films to draw a realistic sample size. 

In short, I can’t wait to get more data on this. (And like Christmas the waiting makes it more fun.) But for now, Disney has their best PVOD performance to date.

Quick Notes on Film

- Film Premiere: Fear Street Part Two: 1976. In fairly pedestrian news Fear Street Part One: 1994 opened to 1.4 million hours, and Fear Street Part Two: 1976 opened to 1.3 million. Meaning if these were a TV series, that’s a pretty good decay rate. Though clearly, the ceiling for these horror films seems to be fairly low.

- Speaking of good holds, The Tomorrow War had a big “viewership per day” decay as you’d expect, but still had a strong hold overall. On average, a top ten films drops about 23% in total viewership from the first to second week. (Thus the “per day” average drops even more steeply.) The Tomorrow War only dropped 11%, which is an above average hold! Moreover, it’s still the third highest total for any film through two weeks (behind Soul and Luca) and I’d bet it keeps that spot through weeks three and four.

- (Given the July 4th weekend boost, how much does this make you want to know what Hamilton did on Disney+ last year!?!?!?)

- Luca, meanwhile, is extending its lead over Soul. Through four weeks, Luca has 87.5 million hours of viewing to Soul’s 63.9 million. Luca is now clearly the biggest film release straight-to-streaming on record. We’ll see if any Netflix films can top it—maybe Vivo this weekend, but it isn’t being marketing per Netflix standard operating procedure, see below—but my money would maybe be on Black Widow when it debuts in SVOD.

- Acquired: Kung Fu Panda. Kung Fu Panda appears to be taking the “Moana/Frozen” constantly replayed, animated title from Disney this week. The Dreamworks animated title returned to Netflix on July 1st. Universal library films cycle on and off the platform.

Television

To start, here’s the last six weeks of first and second run TV premieres on streaming:

Here’s a fun topic. For the first time since November 16th, the Netflix Original series Boss Baby: Back in Business made it onto the “Originals” Top Ten list. Hmmm. Did it have new episodes released? Nope. So what drove this newfound popularity??

That’s right. Universal released Boss Baby: Family Business into theaters and “day-and-date” on Peacock. And with that release came a good old fashioned marketing campaign for a theatrical film. In this case, a big campaign, as Deadline said Comcast put its “Symphony” synergy efforts behind it. Did this marketing campaign work? You tell me…

What’s the lesson for this Google Trends data? A full-blown, tens of millions of dollar, theatrical marketing campaign drives tons of awareness. (Though Universal still can’t quite touch Disney on the marketing side.) According to Samba TV, over 700K households tuned into Peacock to watch during the July 4th weekend. At the box office, it added another $19 million or so in domestic grosses. (I’d love to add Nielsen’s data, but they don’t track Peacock publicly.) All in all, a buzzy new film.

Not only did Peacock—presumably—benefit from this marketing campaign; Netflix did too. As I mentioned above, the week after, Boss Baby: Back in Business (again, the Netflix series with four seasons) made the Nielsen “Original” top ten with 3.8 million hours viewed.

Are their lessons to take form this? Yes, as always.

- Marketing works.
- Ownership of spin-offs has value too. If your TV show will benefit from a theatrical release, your theatrical releases have higher ROI for your studio. (Disney benefits the most from this.)
- If you don’t (for some reason) release films in theaters (again why wouldn’t you?), then you can’t justify similar marketing expenditures. If you don’t spend the marketing dollars, you don’t attract as many customers. Something to think about if you are (hypothetically) the leading streamer in America and (for some reason) don’t release films in theaters.
- In fairness to Netflix, by simply putting movies on their service, as the current leader, they can drive pretty high awareness. That’s the case with Sony’s The Mitchells vs the Machines, which did about 2/3rds of the awareness of Boss Baby, with much smaller marketing energy behind it.
- Kids movies are still doing great at driving viewership. (Though box office remains lower than average for kids films, likely due to Covid-19.)
- Lastly, you can see why Netflix covets Dreamworks Animation films on their service, and why they re-upped that deal. I mean, 700K people went to Peacock to watch Boss Baby 2. How many would have tuned in on Netflix?

Quick Notes on TV

- TV Premiere: Virgin River. Season two of Virgin River came out last year on November 27th, and did great numbers for Netflix, taking the first spot for the week of November 30th with 29.9 million hours. Season three has maintained that momentum, getting to 24.2 million hours this week, number one in Originals and second to Manifest overall. This will be a fun one to monitor. 

- TV Premiere: Atypical. This is the fourth season of this series—honestly I’d never heard of it—and it premiered to only 6.7 million hours. That’s good for 7th place of the season four releases. For cross platform comparisons, season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale did 17.3 million hours and season 7 of Bosch did 7.1 million hours.

- It looks like Disney should be very happy with their weekly releases. Loki in particular had another great week, growing from 13.6 million hours to 18 million hours viewed. Its final episode premieres on July 14th, so it will be interesting to see how much higher its final episode pushes this series. If past MCU series are a guide, it will last for one week after its season finale.

- The Handmaid’s Tale is chugging along too. For the last two weeks, I’ve been waiting for it to finally drop off the Nielsen list. (It’s final episode premiered on June 16th.) Then I’ll dive into it as a main topic for “TV” for the week. And yet, it keeps on living! Not for the first or last time, I’ll repeat that this is the value of lots of episodes! This week though is almost assuredly its last, as it is the very bottom in my “combined Top 30”:

- Bosch is on the Binge Release Curve! I’m always excited to highlight something I’ve gotten right. Like coining the term “Binge Release Curve” for TV series. (The shape of that curve is a second week slightly higher than the first, then a third week below the first week.) Bosch is executing the latest version of that, implying that it has one or two weeks left in the Nielsen ratings. Same for Too Hot to Handle:

- Sophie Murder in West Cork fell off the Nielsen chart after only one week. With only three episodes and a low debut, that’s to be expected.

- Dog Not Barking: Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson. I think Tim Robinson is hilarious, so I feel bad saying this, but according to my data, his sketch show set a record: It’s the first Netflix Original to premiere and fail to chart in the Netflix Daily Top Ten. We’ve had other shows fail to make the Nielsen Top Ten, (like Love, Death and Robots), but never an “Original" that has missed both for Netflix. (The rest of the streamers like Disney+, Prime Video, Hulu and untracked streamers like Peacock and HBO Max make plenty of “dogs not barking”.) To defend Robinson slightly, his show is very, very short (less than 18 minutes usually) which explains why it struggles on cumulative viewership lists.

- Manifest Update: It’s still doing well. Scratch that, great. The hold week-over-week is clearly above average. Here’s an update to the chart I made last week with the Top Ten performance below it. (It should drop off in the next few weeks, but won’t disappear by any means.)

- Acquired TV: Shameless. For the first time since December 28th, the Showtime Original, second-run on Netflix series Shameless has returned to the “acquired TV” charts. I wish I could give a reason for it. It didn’t release new episodes on Netflix and the Showtime series ended its latest season back in April. The best explanation is that shows move around slightly on the charts and given that Netflix has over 110 episodes of it, it was due. Shameless finished it’s 11th season in April, so when new episodes hit the service, expect another bump. (As per Whats-On-Netflix, expect that to happen later this year.)

Competition

One of my main questions for the streaming wars is whether or not the streaming wars will get more competitive. If they do, the idea that one streamer will “dominate” the rest will become increasingly unlikely. (And yes, I mean Netflix.)

All signs are that the streaming wars are getting more competitive. One example is that Netflix has a harder and harder time launching shows into the Nielsen total viewing top ten, like I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson described above. I was thinking about that looking at the Top Ten this week:

Only 50% Netflix series? And only one Original? That got me wondering to how the Top Ten share has been trending this year. Draw your own conclusions:

Coming Soon!

- Marvel: What If? - There’s a lot of Marvel content this year. Three TV series and one theatrical film, with multiple more TV series and two more films to come. The next TV series is Marvel: What If, an animated anthology series using the original voices. As I mentioned with Invincible, my gut is its ceiling is lower than live-action series. We’ll see.

- Two Netflix movies: Vivo and The Kissing Booth 3. Vivo is the latest Sony-acquired film to skip theaters and go straight to Netflix. As an animated title, the safe bet is that it will perform as well as The Mitchells vs the Machines. The Kissing Booth 3 is Netflix’s third film from another of their “summer of rom-coms in 2019”  film franchises, following To All the Boys I Loved Before. (By the way, the first film was part of the early Netflix datecdote system, and I wrote a long series on viewership between Netflix rom-coms and Crazy Rich Asians here.)