A Down Week Makes for Some Strange Ratings

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(Editor’s Note: This is the second edition of a new website feature, a weekly report on streaming ratings. One of the quirks of the streaming wars is that no one knows what shows or movies are doing well, what are doing poorly and what failed to launch. If you have any questions or data you’d like to see, let me know!)

This week’s ratings are frankly one of the weirder weeks since Nielsen started releasing their top ten lists. Since ratings were down overall, smaller and odder titles got a chance to make the list.

Television

IMAGE 1 - TV LineAs with most weeks, Netflix was the dominant performer. What makes this week strange is how it got there. 

Only two originals made the top ten in overall viewing. One of them was Bridgerton, which testifies to the incredible staying power of that show. Bridgerton is likely an “elite” series for Netflix in the United States now, along with Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Ozark and The Crown. Fortunately, Netflix owns Bridgerton outright, unlike OITNB, Ozark or The Crown. 

Though a hit series (without new episodes) can only drive viewing for so long, and Netflix’s end of January launches didn’t seem to hit. Season two of reality series Blown Away only had 7.3 million hours viewed, which in 2020 would not have been enough viewership to make the top ten lists most weeks. Bling Empire didn’t make the top ten originals list for a second week either. Fate: The Winx Saga did gain week over week, but it will likely fall off the list in the next week or two, judging by its top ten list performance. (It is also the latest in a line of teen dramas produced by Netflix. At some point, all Netflix series may take place in high school/boarding schools.)

The other big series were library or second run titles, including the latest season of Outlander. Here’s the top ten list if you only highlighted wholly-owned or originals:

IMAGE 3 - Nielsen 30 Originals Wholly

Which brings us to the studio/streamer dominating the film list, Disney. Many third party analytics firms continue to estimate that WandaVision is one of the most watched series in the US. (See Parrot Analytics or TVision for two examples.) So why doesn’t WandaVision perform higher in Nielsen’s ranking? The explanation is simply that series with more episodes do better in total hours viewed, as I showed last week. This trend only continued this week. WandaVision added only a single episode, but its total hours went from 6.3 million to 7.2 million.

Other Quick Notes on TV

– US viewers continue to avoid international originals, except for shows from other English speaking countries. Indeed, the most exotic series come from Canada (Schitt’s Creek, Blown Away), the UK (The Dig) or joint US/UK series (Outlander, The Crown). Notably, all English speaking series. Technically, Fate: The Winx Saga is partly from Italy, but that series is also based on a show that aired on Viacom’s Nickelodeon and is in English. The hypothesis that Netflix is able to take advantage of global scale to launch series may be true, but that’s happening despite the US, which continues to watch English language programming.
Disenchantment by Simpson’s creator Matt Groening is likely a disappointment. Premiering on January 15th, it has already dropped off the total hours list.
Longmire is the latest Netflix original to make an appearance on the bottom of the “Originals” top ten list well after its latest season dropped. Other examples from January include Designated Survivor appearing the week of December 28th and Great British Baking Show throughout January.
– As expected, Lupin with only four episodes dropped off the US top ten lists after only two weeks in the top ten.

FilmIMAGE 4 - Feature Films

Film may be even weirder than TV. The biggest film on Netflix was Lionsgate’s The Next Three Days, which was originally released 11 years ago and only grossed $67 million at the US box office. It was added on January 22nd, so what a “Netflix bump”.

Even stranger, it wasn’t like Netflix didn’t try to launch some own original films of their own. Netflix released at least three potentially big films, The Dig and Finding ‘Ohana. The Dig and Finding ‘Ohana both made the top ten list for film. All three were released on a Friday (January 29th) so they could gain steam. However, as we’ve seen repeatedly, most films usually lose viewers in their second and third weeks, especially when measuring by day.

The Netflix daily top ten lists to get an idea of where this is trending. Using FlixPatrol’s collection of this data, here’s February’s list. Finding ‘Ohana will likely gain the most:

IMAGE 2 - Weekly Releases

Other quick notes on Film

– The expanded look provided by Nielsen (three top ten lists instead of one consolidated) continues to provide additional insights as we get more data. For example, the importance of recently released films is even more important than I had thought. Of the seven new pieces of content to make one of the top ten lists for the week of January 25th, six premiered in January. And four were released in the week of January 25th, including Below Zero, Finding Ohana and The Dig.

Soul has decayed down to Mulan/Frozen II levels. I suspect that Onward likely dominated the film lists in the spring, though I don’t have data to prove it. If this is true and Soul performs similarly, then Soul will likely stay at this level until Disney has a new kids film to launch on the platform, meaning Raya and the Last Dragon after its “Premiere Access” window.

– Netflix’s library titles that are action or thrillers seem to over-perform. Of the January titles on the film list, many fit this bill, some with obscure origins like The Next Three Days, Killers, 30 Minutes or Less, The Vanished and Homefront.

Competition

Netflix dominated streaming in January. Of the forty films or series in the consolidated top ten in January, only one was not on Netflix, Soul during the week of 4-January.

Nielsen Top Ten Last 4 weeks

[Editor’s Note. I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the ratings data of the week. And trust me I know this is very “Nielsen”-heavy analysis. It won’t stay that way. I’m working on adding weekly top ten rankings, IMDb, Google Trends and other data slices to make this as comprehensive, while readable as possible. The key, though, is that I don’t want to add any data source piecemeal or anecdotally. I have to analyze, vet and understand the data before incorporating it.

By the way, if you’re an analytics firm who would like to partner or provide data, please don’t hesitate to reach out.]

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.

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