Nielsen’s New Top 30 Streaming Video Ratings…Explained! Plus a Visual of the Week

Starting last August, Nielsen began releasing a weekly American top 10 most watched list for streaming video. I’ve been using it ever since. Nielsen mixed together TV and movies, and new (“originals”), second-run and library (“acquired”) on the same list. 

In their year-end top ten list, though, Nielsen flipped the script and provided three different top ten lists. Formatting mine, with hours instead of minutes:

IMAGE 1 - Nielsen Top 10 2020

This was a sign of things to come. Starting with the week of Monday, December 28th, Nielsen is now publishing three top ten lists, one for “original” TV series, one for “licensed” TV series, and one for film. 

(Man that’s a lot of definitions. In the future, I’ll define them all. But for now, this article from 2019 has a good explanation of the definitions I use to analyze content.)

Whenever a firm changes their data definitions, I tend to get extra cautious doing analysis. For example, when Netflix went from calling a view “2 minutes watched” from “70% viewed” a lot of folks continued as if nothing had changed in the numbers. This violates the number one rule of data analysis: keeping things apples-to-apples. (My solution was to convert all the numbers to the same metric, using Netlfix’s average 35% inflation between the two numbers.)

That’s a worry here. Unless Nielsen provides me with an expanded database going back through 2020, most of our data will now be cleaved into “2020 Top Ten” data and “2021 Top 10×3” data. Thus any analysis of 2020 to 2021 data will need to factor in that it may not be “apples-to-apples”.

But…

…this is still great news.

Here is the the synthesized Nielsen top ten list for the last two weeks of Nielsen data, if Nielsen had continued the old methodology:

IMAGE 2 - Top TenIMAGE 3 - Top Ten

Now, we can compare this to the new, combined top 30 lists:

IMAGE 4 - Top 30 List

IMAGE 5 - Top 30In other words, that’s a lot more data to parse! More data means more analysis! More analysis means more insights!

Previously, any of the data from The Mandalorian on down in the week of December 28th and all the titles from The Crown from January 4th would have been invisible to us. Moreover, we can confidently say that this list is a clear top 23 list one week and a top 21 list the next. (Basically, anything above the first “10” on the list by logic is in order.) 

Overall, this expansion should greatly help our understanding of how content is performing in the streaming wars:

– Previously, original films on Netflix and Disney all dropped off the Top 10 list after two weeks. This will allow us to track film decay with greater fidelity. (For example, The Midnight Sky would have only had one week of data before.)
– We’ll also get more films on the list, being able to clarify which films underperform their openings more often. (For example, We Can Be Heroes made the list.)
– This will also let us track TV series decay as well. As we’ve written before, four of the ten top spots in this list were usually held by licensed second-run and library content on Netflix. This essentially gives us 10 or more original titles to review each week. (For example, The Mandalorian would have dropped off the week of December 28th. The Crown would have dropped off the week after.)
– More spots should potentially allow more non-Netflix series and films on the list. This will allow us to compare performance trends between the streamers as well. Right now, Disney+ and Prime Video shows dropped off after a week or two. This will enable to track their decay as well.

For example, in the past Soul would have just eked out staying on this list. (The first film to make the top ten for three weeks in a row.) But The Midnight Sky (72 million global 2 minute views, Netflix revealed in their earnings report) would have dropped off. Same with We Can Be Heroes (53 million global 2 min views) would never have made the list. Now I can make this chart:

IMAGE 6 - Feature Film Decay

Interestingly, all the films featured big drops in viewership (44% for We Can Be Heroes and 56% for The Midnight Sky), but Soul didn’t see its big drop until week two to three (61%).

As a reminder, Nielsen doesn’t track HBO Max data yet, so we don’t know how Wonder Woman 1984 fared in its second week.

Visual of the Week – Netflix Films Do Much Better Weekly; Disney+ Films Do Better All Year

When Nielsen only released a single top ten list, films only made the list when they were newly released, such as Mulan, Borat’s Subsequent Moviefilm and Netflix’s regular releases. As such, when Nielsen released a cumulative top ten list for film in 2020, the results were very skewed towards Disney’s rewatchable films:

IMAGE 7 - Nielsen Top Ten FilmWhen we look at the weekly rankings of movies, the Disney dominance isn’t quite as strong:

IMAGE 8 Various Top TenWith a now weekly top ten list, we’ll be able to get a different perspective on the competition between Disney and Netflix for, frankly, kids viewership. Some insights:

– Kids programming still dominates the film list. For this week, 11 of the top 20 are targeted at kids. And one is a teen comedy. (17 Again)
– Netflix does better in a weekly top ten, due to their size. Indeed, this shows that the split between Disney+ and Netflix is much closer in kids content than it seems. However, Diseny+ does seem to still be winning.
Rango was misidentified as being on Prime Video. It is currently on Netflix exclusively in the US. Nielsen has confirmed this.
– That said, it does look like Amazon did get one genuine film on the list with Catch Me if You Can. It’s their only entry in the three top ten lists for the last two weeks.
– Interestingly, like original TV, Netflix’s films are skewed towards new releases. Of the 13 Netflix films on the list the last two weeks, only 1 was released before December 25th, which was The Croods. Thus we can see that whereas Disney+ sustains interest in their small library of kids content, Netflix relies on recent releases, even on licensed kid content.

  1. […] the story is similar to the one I described in my last “visual of the week” in that the film list is the home from kids content. Frozen 2, Moana and Soul look set to stay well […]

    Reply

  2. Just curious, is Nielsen’s new 3-list system measuring every US distributor, including broadcast nets and cable? Or is this just for streaming? I’m assuming if it’s everyone, then the broadcasters and cable nets are just WAY down the list. Curious where something like ESPN programming would be?

    Reply

    1. I know you said to ignore, but the streamers wouldn’t be that far down the list, it’s just that they’re measured differently. They provide ratings for top series, which aren’t apples-to-apples with total hours.

      Check out this article:

      https://entertainmentstrategyguy.com/2020/03/24/netflix-is-a-broadcast-channel-comparing-streamers-to-tv-channels-in-an-age-of-nielsen-data/

      Reply

  3. No longer curious February 24, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    Please ignore last post. I realize it’s streaming only!

    Reply

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