We Finally Find Out If Black Mirror Lives Up To Its Buzz, Plus Extraction 2 vs Avatar: The Way of Water
The Streaming Ratings Report for 14-July-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.)
A few times in May, I noted that the first few weeks of June felt light on major streaming releases, mainly because the Emmy nomination deadline meant that shows had to come out by 31-May to be eligible for an award. Of course, light still means a few big shows (Black Mirror, Our Planet, The Full Monty, and a new The Grand Tour special) came out the week of 12-June. Plus the summer ratings doldrums—the reason why networks avoid releasing their top shows in the summer and most sports go on hiatus—are feeling more and more real, even for streamers, a theme I’ll probably be returning to all summer. (And trying to put into context with lots and lots of data.)
Want an example? We haven’t had a new show debut in the top fifty all time since The Night Agent came out last March.
Last week, I inserted a poll in the Streaming Ratings Report, and here are the results. I have another poll at the end of this week’s column, and I’m curious to see what this (very smart) audience thinks again:
Of course, the story of last week was SAG-AFTRA joining the WGA and going on strike. Eventually, the shut down in scripted productions from the dual strikes will drastically slow the number of shows coming out on streaming services each week. Figuring out when that happens, and how the streamers will manage it, is worth a much longer, deeper dive. And I’ll have some thoughts on the strike in my next “most important story” of the week column.
Before we get to the streaming ratings, a fun data update.
(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 June 12th to June 18th.)
Showlabs by Plum Research Has Updated Their “Max” Panels
As I mentioned a few weeks back, Showlabs by Plum Research had to update their Max panel after the HBO Max/Discovery+ merger, but that data analysis is complete, so the streamer now known just as "Max" will show back up on the Showlabs charts I provide each week. (Plum Research has since started releasing Netflix top ten charts on their own website, but I don’t believe they release Max data anywhere else.) I keep improving this data set, so hopefully, this summer, I’ll be able to provide even deeper data cuts like my Nielsen looks.
Here’s the weekly table I provide to paid subscribers at the end of each Streaming Ratings Report:
Film - Extraction 2’s Okay Debut Compared to Avatar: The Way of Water
A while back, Netflix modified their global charts to include a “view” metric, which is total hours watched divided by run time. (I haven’t really mentioned it because I cover U.S. ratings only in this weekly article.) I don’t prefer using the “views” metric, because it has a host of complications, as I’ll explain in a future article. (Every metric has problems.)
But it is trying to solve a genuine problem, as illustrated by the top two films this week:
The simply named Extraction 2 had nearly as many hours viewed (17.1 million hours) as Avatar 2, er, Avatar: The Way of Water had in its second week on streaming (17.7 million). Indeed, just looking at debut weeks, Avatar: The Way of Water opened to a whopping 32.4 million hours, nearly twice as much as Extraction 2.
In this case, the folks who want to point out, “Hey, Avatar: The Way of Water is much, much, much, much longer than Extraction 2” have a point. You’re talking a two hour film up against a three hour film. If we account for run time, does Extraction 2 actually best Avatar 2 in its “debut” week?
Let’s see. When you look at the total hours viewed, Avatar: The Way of Water bests Extraction 2, and Extraction 2 didn’t even crack the top 25 for total hours viewed by all films:
But if you adjust for “viewership per adjusted hour” (meaning divide hours by run time, or “views” as Netflix would define them), does Avatar: The Way of Water lose out to Extraction 2?
(Again, I’m including both weeks of data we have for Avatar: The Way of Water.)
Ah, but Extraction 2 came out on a Friday and Avatar: The Way of Water came out on a Wednesday. So take the number above, and divide it by the number of release days and you get “Viewership Per Adjusted Hour Per Day” and…
And thus, Extraction 2’s debut bests Avatar 2’s debut. (By that very specific data cut.) Accounting for run time can matter, though I’d add that, even with shorter films coming out on Netflix, two hours is still pretty standard. Indeed, Avatar: The Way of Water is probably the outlier. (Though on rewatch, I wouldn’t cut a second.) The vast majority of time, I don’t account for run time and only a few very long films (Avatar: The Way of Water, The Irishman) really throw off this analysis.
The other data backs up the idea that Extraction 2 was not a monster hit. On Samba TV, it had 2.1 million households watch in its first four days, but that’s on the low end for a Netflix film compared to other to Samba TV data points.
Indeed, Spiderhead was also a Chris Hemsworth June release. So maybe summer flicks just don’t open as big?
Samba TV also had Avatar: The Way of Water at 2.6 million households, beating Extraction 2 as well. (Of course, we know who won the “box office” war in a landslide.) When it comes to IMDb, Extraction 2 has also done well, getting nearly 100K reviews (at an 7.1 rating) in just over a month of release. But Avatar 2—again with nearly seven months since release—has a 7.6 on 433K reviews.
For those who don’t remember, the first Extraction film came out in 2020, the very start of the streaming ratings era. Netflix in fact told us 99 million households watched “at least two minutes” globally, back when Netflix datecdotes were a thing. Customers also watched the first Extraction—according to Nielsen—for 18 million hours after its debut, a bit above Extraction 2.
The last variable is cost. I read some reports that Extraction 2 only cost $50-75 million to make, and that feels a pinch low to me. Did Chris Hemsworth and a Russo brother both really not a big up front pay day since they can't get a big back-end payment? Or did they and then the entire action film was made for $30-45 million? If so, yeah that’s probably the budget that studios should aim for going forward. (Or the budget was likely the production budget that was reported, not the total price.)
Quick Notes on Film
Of the new titles on the charts, Black Clover: Sword of the Wizard King is a title I’m sure everyone in the audience knew came out on Netflix. (Though in seriousness, I know that I have some anime fans among my readers and they probably did know that this movie was coming out. Indeed, my researcher/editor reminded me that he actually watched it two weeks ago and he assures me that, in his words, “Asta still wants to be the Wizard King.”) But that gets to the tension at the heart of evaluating “anime” content: the hardcore fans love it and devour it (which helps it on interest metrics) but it often misses other viewership charts. This latest title from Netflix made TV Time (for one week) and the Showlabs charts, but missed Nielsen. For an anime titles, that’s a good performance. Though again, I remain a bit more skeptical that anime is a tremendous driver of interest for most customers in America.1 Take IMDb: Black Clover: Sword of the Wizard King only has 5.6K reviews compared to Extraction 2’s 98K.
Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania made it back on the charts, though on the very low end at 2.6 million hours. Meanwhile, Flamin’ Hot—a Disney+-and-Hulu dual-released film—had a small “binge release curve”, going from 4.9 million hours to 5.3 million. The rest of the Nielsen charts were mostly library titles and Extraction/Avatar.
Last week, I said that Universal’s titles going to Netflix after four months on Peacock. D’oh. Animated/kids films from Universal (including Illumination and Dreamworks) go to Netflix; adult titles go to Prime Video. I should have been clearer.
Welcome back Warner Bros Discovery data from Showlabs! We’ve missed you. While they were gone, the usual titles made the Showlabs film charts for the streamer formerly known as HBO Max, including a host of library films, both from Warner Bros and from other studios, like Ready Player One, Harry Potter, The Batman and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Of the original films from Max or HBO, Reality is on a two week run on Showlabs, so it’s not a true “dog not barking”, but still a miss. So is Bama Rush, a Max Original that made Showlabs for only two weeks.
For films/specials, the most notable miss/flop of the week is probably Amy Schumer’s latest comedy special for Netflix, Amy Schumer: Emergency Contact. On the one hand, not that many comedy specials ever make the Nielsen charts, so it’s not that big of a deal, but if any comedian could make the charts, it’s Amy Schumer. Between this and the latest season of Inside Amy Schumer getting pulled from Paramount+, it’s been a rough summer/patch for Schumer, who, as I’ve written about before, is one of my favorite comics out there. Just watch her latest guest stint on SNL; she’s amazing. Don’t believe me? Here’s a great clip from it
Other DNBs for the week include Hulu’s direct-to-streaming LGBTQ+ horror film Jagged Mind, which has a dismal 405 votes on IMDb, the Stan Lee documentary from the Supper Club production company and the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. (If you’re at all interested in watching this, you probably should check it out ASAP in case Disney removes it) and Chevalier, a Searchlight biopic on the world’s first Black composer, which got $3 million at the box office a few months ago.
I can confirm that all of last weeks film DNBs (HBO/Max’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance, Reality, and CNN’s American Pain plus Peacock’s LeBron James biopic Shooting Stars) didn’t make the charts.
Television - Does Black Mirror Live Up to Its Buzz?
When a new season of Black Mirror showed up on the charts—for those who don’t know, it’s a buzzy British sci-fi series that started on Channel 4 in the UK and then moved to Netflix after its second season—I realized it was a classic example of a series that we had never seen in the “Streaming Ratings Era”2. The last season came out in 2019 and never got the Netflix “datecdote” treatment. But like most shows from that time period, everyone assumed it was successful, but we didn’t know just how successful.