Updating our Streaming Priors, Plus Hulu’s The Kardashians Faces Off With Prime Video’s Outer Range
The Streaming Ratings Report for 13-May-2022
Viewership was light this week, likely because the streamers were saving the big guns for the end of the month/May to help improve their Emmy nomination chances. When the top film/show this week has under 20 million hours of total viewership, that’s pretty low.
That's the lowest film or show in the top spot of the Nielsen Top 30 ranks since Inventing Anna had 19.5 million hours the week of 28-February. And the previous week to not feature anything with 20 million hours viewing was way back in 6-December-2021. This light week will give us a chance to update some of our priors, especially around what used to “work” on streaming.
(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, Netflix datecdotes and hours viewed data, Netflix 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 April 11th to April 17th.)
In my last two articles over at The Ankler, I’ve casually thrown out that Hulu and Prime Video are vying for fourth place in the streaming wars in America. Some folks asked how I determined this. Did I have some complicated algorithm, backed by lots of data?
Nah, I used my gut. But tell me how much you’d disagree with this ranking:
3. HBO/HBO Max (with or without Discovery+)
4/5. Hulu or Prime Video
6/7/8. Paramount+ (w/Showtime)/Apple TV+/Peacock
Yeah, that feels about right. I could pull data sources—like U.S. subscriber counts, share of the Nielsen Top 30, usage estimates or what not—and while different streamers may move around, I bet the list roughly breaks down in that order. (And yeah, I’m gathering data for a future article on this!)
I bring this up because we we had a Hulu and Prime Video showdown this week, with Hulu releasing one episode of The Kardashians on 14-April—starring the Kardashian family—and Prime Video releasing two episodes of Outer Range on 15-April—starring Josh Brolin. So who won this mini-showdown of unlikely competitors?
Both shows were released weekly, which brings up the theme of the week “updating your priors”. What is it that Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video, Paramount+ and even Peacock know that Netflix doesn’t about weekly releases? Seriously, Prime Video started out binge releasing every show, and now picks or chooses some series to get weekly releases, including new shows like Outer Range and The Wheel of Time. Apple TV+ did the same thing. Disney+ never started for their big shows. At some point, Netflix’s insistence on binge releasing EVERYTHING isn’t standing on principle; it’s ignoring best practices due to hubris.
Did the weekly releases work? We’ll have to see since weekly-released series have slower starts. Hulu’s The Kardashians missed the “Original” TV rankings this week, which means, by logical deduction, it can’t have had more than 4.1 millions hours total viewing.
It also missed the TV Time rankings too:
I could add that The Kardashians has a low number of IMDb reviews, but as I pointed out last week, I don’t mind that for reality shows, especially divisive ones like this. I’d also argue that even TV Time clearly skews “genre” so, again, not the worst sign. And even the Nielsen numbers can be explained by only releasing one episode. Using Samba TV’s data, they reported that 810K households watched in the L+3 numbers.
Here’s how that Samba TV performance stacks up:
As you can see, The Kardashians (just barely) bested Nine Perfect Strangers and Only Murders in the Building, series that did make Nielsen’s rankings. Interestingly, we also got this specific nugget from Variety:
As you can see, Hulu’s biggest shows often miss the Nielsen data, especially early in their release, if they don’t have a lot of catch-up episodes. Also, we don’t know what Hulu is measuring here—total hours, unique customers, etc—or on what time period. Keeping those details vague gives Hulu a lot of latitude to declare each subsequent TV series (The Handmaid’s Tale, Nine Perfect Strangers, The Kardashians) their biggest ever.
Here’s the updated Hulu datecdotes chart:
Basically, we’ll need to watch this one over the next few weeks. If The Kardashians makes the Nielsen charts, I’ll be reassured it's a hit for them. If it doesn’t—given that they paid over nine figures million to get it!—it could be a big, big miss.
In contrast, Outer Range made most of the metrics I track. It netted 4.7 million hours in its first week, and it only released two episodes. As you can see above, it also made the TV Time rankings for three weeks, though on the low end of the charts. On IMDb, it has a 7.3 on 13K reviews. I’m less concerned with their number of reviews, but for a show to really take off, you’d like to see the rating number over 7.5.
Even better--especially if you read my Ankler piece this week--this looks to be a show Amazon owns outright!
So let’s give round one to Outer Range, but we’ll check back in a few weeks to see if The Kardashians picks up steam. Meanwhile, we need to figure out why every streamer that isn’t Netflix keeps releasing series weekly…
Quick Notes on TV
- Netflix’s biggest release this week was Anatomy of a Scandal on Friday 15-April. On paper, not much more than you could ask for, with Sienna Miller, Michelle Dockery and Rupert Friend starring and David E. Kelley producing. It has only a 7.0 on IMDb, and as this Guardian review claims, it’s making news for all the wrong reasons. It debuted to 5.8 million hours, which is as low as it sounds, ranking 65th in my data set of 128 season one or mini-series launches.
- In slightly better news, President Obama narrated a documentary for Netflix called Our Great National Parks and it debuted to 5.2 million hours. I say “better” because documentaries tend to be cheap, cheap, cheap. Except this narrator was not cheap for Netflix, given that they paid the Obamas a likely large (though undisclosed( sum. (Unlike their Spotify deal, this one hasn’t fallen through yet…)
- The light week for new content gave breathing room to a recently released kids series, season two of Green Eggs and Ham for Netflix, which debuted the week of 4-April, and made it on the list this week with 4.1 million hours. Back of the envelope, I’d say Green Eggs and Ham is Seuss’ second most valuable IP after The Cat in the Hat, which currently has a show on PBS Kids. (Apparently season two of this show ties into The Butter Battle Book—one of my favorites of all time—so can you say DSCU?) Most kids series fail to chart, so this is a strong debut, which is good for the Seuss estate, given that they’re exploring a sale.
- As a result of the light week, some Netflix series have had great runs, like Inventing Anna going for 10 weeks, The Last Kingdom on its 6th week, Bridgerton on its 4th week and even Is It Cake? doing okay in its 5th week.
- The “Dog Not Barking” of the week is officially Tokyo Vice. It never made the TV Time rankings, even though HBO Max usually has pretty good success with that. I considered Woke, but just think it's too small for the top prize. Elite did make TV Time for one week, but only one week. (And it does well internationally.)
- As for the new candidates, we have a few interesting candidates, skewing comedy. Apple TV+ released Roar, a “darkly feminist” comedy anthology series, HBO Max released The Garcias, a reboot of a Nickelodeon series, Peacock had Killing It, from the Brooklyn 99 creative team and Craig Robinson, and Netflix released Hard Cell, a mockumentary set in prison.
We don’t have a lot of data on Death on the Nile, since it’s a dual HBO/HBO Max/Hulu series, so it skipped the Nielsen charts. I take that back, we do have one very, very important piece of data:
It grossed $45.6 million at the box office.
And we can start to see how that translates to streaming success, since it took the top spot on the TV Time rankings, a spot it will give up to The Batman, and probably later Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. (And maybe Sonic 2.)
The last two years have been weird for answering the question “How well do theatrical titles perform on streaming?” especially since the “streaming ratings era” started the same month that Covid-19 lockdowns shut theaters. My working theory—and this theory has a lot of data already proving it that I saw when I worked at a streamer—is that theatrical titles do really well on streaming. The last two years didn’t give us a ton of great data points on this. But in this case, a middling title in terms of IMDb ratings and box office took the top spot on the TV Time rankings.
Still it is tough to say that straight-to-streaming films get smaller numbers than theatrical films, especially because Netflix is the biggest streamer, so their total viewership numbers tent to dwarf other streamers. I think they could drive even higher numbers (and higher revenue) if they released their films in theaters as well, but right now that’s a counter-factual I can’t prove.
The rest of this year will be the most “normal” since we started tracking the streaming data, so we should know more by the end of the year.
Quick Notes on Film
- Netflix continues their streak of releasing a stream of really, really, really poorly rated films, both foreign-language (as I’ve pointed out) and in English. Like the latest horror film, Choose or Die, which is sitting on a 4.7 IMDb score on 15K reviews. So more than enough reviews to trust the total, and it’s a dismal total. As I’ve detailed before, Netflix has a lot of films like this. It’s not a surprise it debuted toy 2.8 million hours in total viewership.
- All the Old Knives had 2.9 million hours in its second week, and had just a one week run on TV Time. So this is a clear miss.
- After almost exactly one year absence, Hop from Illumination/Universal (and Relativity Media, if you remember them) returned to the film rankings. It turns out, this year, on Easter weekend, the bunny movie did well. Hey, Universal and Disney, you both need a bunny movie for your streamer!
- In other licensed film news, 2013’s The Call, starring Halle Berry and 2007’s Cleaner, starring Samuel L. Jackson both made the Netflix ranks. It seems a bit trite to repeat at this point, but Netflix customers seem to like thrillers or action films with recognizable stars, even if those films underperformed at the box office on release.
- Metal Lords moves from the “potential dog not barking” list to the official “Dog Not Barking” list as it missed the Nielsen ranks for the second week in a row.
- Our biggest film/special DNB candidate of the week is Apple TV+’s special, It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown, released on Friday 15-April. It’s a kids title on a small streamer, so low total viewership doesn’t surprise me, but I do think these Apple TV+/Peanuts collaborations have been going under the radar, which is a shame, because I—and my kids, kind of—are loving these Peanuts cartoon. But that’s just my personal taste.
Speaking of personal tastes, right now Apple TV+ has taken Netflix’s mantle as every journalist/investment analyst’s favorite streamer. Instead of making popular fare like silly Discovery+, Paramount+ or Peacock, they make prestige, HBO-esque shows for people who own iPhones! Let’s not make the same mistake we made with Netflix—substituting our tastes for data—with Apple TV+. If your case for a streamer starts with “I like their shows”, that’s probably not the most objective measurement. Or the one likely to lead to future strategic success.
For those keeping track, Apple TV+ hasn’t made a Nielsen Top Ten list since Ted Lasso back in November.
Now that the last major streamer has had their earnings report, Antenna has released their publicly available version of their subscription tracking data. Here’s the key chart:
As usual, Netflix is the biggest streamer with a fairly stable number of U.S. subscribers over the last two years. But that’s sort of the problem, as Netflix was expected by many to take over TV, not just be one of many players. (And yes, they’re still clearly the biggest!)
Compare this chart to the ranking I put at the start of this week’s report, and you can see why I say Paramount+, Peacock and Apple TV+ are vying for fifth place. (These estimates don’t include Prime Video, cause it’s a bundled subscription.) I would add, watching the smaller streamer growth rates will be the most fun subplot for the rest of this year.
Anecdata of the Week
In one of my favorite articles I’ve read all year, The Quorum used their audience survey data to gauge what are the most popular franchises over time. This isn’t some esoteric exercise, as the whole point of Netflix spending billions and billions is to build a library of content to compete with the traditional studios. So after all that spending, how many franchises does Netflix have in the top 100?
One. Bird Box. In 85th place.
The next highest is Murder Mystery at 103rd place.
Here’s the top ten franchises for comparison:
Read the rest for the gory details and some speculation about how Netflix likely needs to release its films in theaters and drive those releases with better/bigger marketing campaigns to compete in the franchise wars.
The big show down next week is Russian Doll's second season going up against HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant’s second season. We won’t have data for The Flight Attendant (c’mon HBO, let Nielsen release your data!), but we could still make a comparison. Likewise, The Batman will hit the ratings charts, and has been doing very well on TV Time’s rankings. (Because theatrically released films do well!) I’d love to know how well it is doing, though how the viewing is split between traditional HBO (how I watched it) and HBO Max we won’t know.
Later this month, the content gets, for lack of a better word, weird. Amazon will have a new Bosch series, called Bosch: Legacy, but its going to Amazon FreeVee! Netflix has The Pentaverate, and it might be an early DNB candidate.
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