When I sit down each week to pull data for the “Streaming Ratings Report”, it honestly feels like Easter. (Why Easter? Well, we’re closer to that than Christmas, and my eldest child is excited for candy delivered in plastic eggs.) This week, my chocolate-filled egg was a new color on the Nielsen rankings. That’s right, a new color!
Check it out yourself:
For the last few weeks, the top ten has only been Netflix and Disney+. The other two big players, Hulu and Prime Video, haven’t had any shows or films make the list. Prime Video’s last entrant was One Night in Miami in January. Hulu has never made a Nielsen top ten list. Until now! Since I color code each streamer, seeing a new color in the chart made me irrationally happy.
(Reminder: The streaming ratings report primarily covers data from Nielsen’s latest report, which covers the week of February 15th to 22nd and is United States-focused.)
This week was a down week for Netflix on the TV side. The two big series we covered last time had their expected week 2 and week 3 drop-offs, which the weekly top ten data indicated. Moreover, the two new releases of the week would have failed to chart in Nielsen’s “top ten”, if it still combined originals, acquired and film in the same list. (That’s my current back-of-the-envelope for whether something launched well.)
Let’s dig into one of those to put a little bit of context on Netflix’s overall viewing. Specifically, The Crew, a Kevin James-helmed, NASCAR-themed sitcom of 10 episodes, averaging about 27 minutes per episode. For the week, it netted 9.3 million hours in total, which, in context, is about half of what Firefly Lane and Crime Scene did last week. Even worse, it was launched on a Monday, so it doesn’t have the “we only had three days of data” excuse.
What fascinates me, and should fascinate you, is that this is a “Kevin James” series. Sure, many reading that will be like, “Yeah, I don’t get what the deal with him is.” Fair enough, but he did helm this:
That’s right, he was one of the building blocks of CBS’ monster sitcom and procedural lineup of the last two decades. (Also, I ride and die for the underrated Hitch.) That said, his last outing on CBS, Kevin Can Wait, only lasted two seasons:
Let’s venture a comparison. With the tremendously huge caveat that streaming is fundamentally different than linear viewership, it is notable that The Crew had fewer than 10 million total hours viewed. We don’t have an apples-to-apples way to compare a full season of live viewership to one week of binge viewing in a precise way, but no matter how you do it, this show likely stalled out in the middle of the streaming race.
Think of it like this, if 10 million Kevin James fans tuned in, then they watched about two episodes each. Or only 2 million tuned in and watched all ten episodes. In other words, the show either had a small initial audience or a low completion rate. Or middling for both. And since this is streaming, the show will rapidly decay in viewership. This was its only shot, short of a second season, to get viewership.
In comparison, CBS can still get 7 plus million viewers to watch Young Sheldon. And that’s just one day of viewing:
What tentative—and very cautiously tentative—conclusions can we draw here? The Crew likely didn’t launch due to some combination of 1. It didn’t work creatively 2. Netflix still doesn’t index well with the typical “CBS demo” and 3. Kevin James on his own isn’t enough of a draw. If I had to pick, I’d go with one, especially since Netflix released it on a Monday, which is as close as they get to “burying” a show, though explanation two intrigues me.
Other Quick Notes on TV
– Good Girls—the NBCUniversal-owned, NBC-aired drama—came out on Netflix, driving it to the top spot in TV. Want to know why Comcast/NBCU are so heavily invested in Peacock? It’s seeing viewership like this on other platforms. Shows clearly do have a second life on Netflix, and traditional channels now want to own that second life.
– WandaVision had its highest week of viewership yet, breaking 12 million total hours viewed, up from around 10 million the week before. A sign of a “great” to “elite” TV series is that it can grow its audience in season 1. (Elite series then grow the audience season over season.) WandaVision is doing that, and all evidence is that it will peak with the season finale. (It’s unclear if WandaVision will have a second season.)
The big winner this week was Netflix’s I Care A Lot. Until I build my “historical” film comps—a trickier task than you’d think—I recommend this rule of thumb: “Did a film make into the top ten?” Even better, did a film make the top ten after launching on a Friday (Extraction, Spenser Confidential, The Old Guard, The Christmas Chronicles 2)? This week, I Care A Lot joins that crew, which means it had a good launch in the U.S.
From there, take a gander at the film in the second spot on Nielsen’s “Top Ten Films”. (As a reminder, Nielsen releases three top ten lists each week, with their definitions of “original TV”, acquired TV and film.)
Flora & Ulysses beat my expectation and made it onto the top ten list, but only with 4 million hours viewed. Back in 2019, I predicted that Disney could cut into Netflix’s then dominant streaming position with kids. The performance of Flora & Ulysses—along with the library titles like Frozen and Moana—is what I meant. Though let’s not get too crazy. At only 4 million total hours viewed, F&U is clearly a kids title, not a four quadrant blockbuster.
What about Nomadland, the other new entry? Well, it was pretty far from making the top ten list. For an Oscar-nominated film—not at the time, but now—this isn’t terrible. Most “prestige/critically-acclaimed/awards-contending” dramas simply have limited upside. Still, at least Hulu finally had a piece of content make the “top 30” list. It will be fascinating to see if The Handmaid’s Tale’s fourth season will crack the TV list this April.
Other Quick Notes on Film
– Want some back-of-the-envelope logic? Well, we know that Hulu’s Run opened Friday, November 20th, and Hulu touted it as their “most watched” film of all time. They didn’t make the same claim for Nomadland. Thus, Nomadland is Run’s total viewership “floor” at 2.3 million hours and 7.6 million (the lowest total on Nielsen’s top ten from the week of November 16th by NCIS) is its “ceiling” in total minutes viewed. In other words, between 2.3 and 7.6 million people watched Run in its opening weekend.
– War Dogs had the second week decay we expected and will likely drop off the top ten next week.
– The presence of Avengers: Endgame is not an accident. It’s Marvel’s highest grossing box office title of all time, and it’s the first MCU film to make the Nielsen top ten list. As for what’s driving this? Who knows. It could be WandaVision motivating some fans or just the general weakness in the film slates across the streamers. But as for a point I will often make: box office predicts popularity in the long term. Thus, if you were to guess the most popular Marvel film on Disney+, guessing the highest U.S. box office grosser of all time would be the correct guess.
– Oh fine, is there a Netflix point with the Avengers: Endgame performance? Sure, this is 2 million hours of viewing that previously would have lived on Netflix. Moreover, I remain convinced that the top library titles on Netflix were Disney films of some sort or another. Avengers: Infinity War, likely, was a huge title on Netflix in 2019 when Endgame was first released in theaters.
– At the end of each quarter, after their earnings report, I’ll dig deep into Netflix’s “datecdotes”, when they provide the number of subscribers (“households”) who watched two minutes or more of a given show or film. They’ve released a few this quarter so far, but the most notable American example is Yes Day, starring Jennifer Garner, which was seen by 53 million households globally in its first 28 days.
– Battle of the Superheroes! Last weekend, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier went head-to-head with the Snyder Cut remix of 2017’s Justice League. Given the buzz, both will likely make the Nielsen top ten when it’s released in four weeks, if Nielsen is tracking HBO Max by then. The caveat is that the buzz was definitely for Justice League, so it may have over-indexed in buzz that didn’t translate to viewership:
– Speaking of Nomadland, the Oscars announced their candidates for “the year without films, the 2020 Academy Awards”. Closer to the show, we’ll review the available data to figure out how popular these films were. (Another reason we need a “streaming box office” report.)