Month: April 2021

Did Raya And the Last Dragon Sell 1.18 Million Copies in the US on Its Opening Weekend?

Let’s start by what question I’m NOT answering today:

Should Disney keep releasing films to “premiere access”?

Ultimately, yeah, I want to answer that question. It’s really important. (For those who don’t know, Premier Access is the movies released at the same time as theaters that cost $30. I’ll call this PVOD, or premium video-on-demand for the rest of the article.) Presumably, if we know how much money Raya and the Last Dragon made in PVOD, we’ll have an idea if Disney should release its future films on PVOD.

in addition to PVOD, we need to factor in different release styles, Covid-19 and the quality of the films that were released. There are so many variables to these release strategy equations, along with so few examples, that evaluating success would be more about justifying our prior beliefs than finding truth. 

What can I tell you? 

That I think Raya and the Last Dragon sold about 1.18 million units on its opening weekend, with a low end of 840K and a high of 1.48 million. Ultimately, that means I think it will make about $150 million PVOD sales globally, in addition to $94 million in box office, with $32 million domestic.

That took a lot of math. Which I’ll explain. But before we can go forward, let’s go backwards.

How Many People Bought Mulan?

Given that the release of Mulan was so unique, multiple analytics/streaming measurement firms jumped into the fray to provide data about how many folks watched it. I summarized this in three articles last fall, ultimately landing (initially) on about 1.2 million folks ordering Mulan during its opening weekend. Here was a table that acted as a “poll of polls” on Mulan:

IMAGE 1 - Poll of Polls

(Really, you should read all three articles on Mulan to understand how I work though a data problem like and to learn about film economics.)

A few weeks later, Nielsen came out with their estimate, and it was notably higher. Using some calculations, like the number of people in the household and the completion rate, I came up with a range from 1.4 to 1.8 million people watching it according to Nielsen. Combining the two, I’d say 1.2-1.8 million folks purchased Mulan on its opening weekend in the US.

That led to this projected revenue from Disney Premier Access window for Mulan. This estimate includes the decay for the next two months, along with global purchases:

IMAGE 2 - Mulan Revenue

The Lack of Data for Raya and the Last Dragon

Because Mulan was so unique, lots of folks tried to figure out how many units it sold. And they told us publicly. Which meant I could make that kick butt analysis chart with several estimates.

Raya is no longer the shiny new release strategy on the block. Heck, Warner Bros. decided to release ALL their films to HBO Max. That’s the big headline now. And it meant way fewer people were paying attention to Disney’s PVOD ambitions. Also, each week new films are releasing in theaters. When Mulan released on Disney+, it almost had the theatrical calendar to itself.

Which meant that fewer firms leapt into the “How did Mulan do?” sweepstakes this time around. But not everyone, so we can take some stabs at the data. 

– First, Nielsen provides their weekly three top ten lists, which has been the most consistent and reliable data set I use. (In fact, I don’t mention data websites that don’t release regular data anymore to bias towards regular data releases.) 

– Second, Antenna also released an estimates of purchases by Raya. They have released a few charts of PVOD and TVOD sales since 2020, so we can use this to make estimates.

– Third, Google Trends is available.

Meanwhile, I scoured the interwebs for anyone else making estimates, and couldn’t find any. Reelgood released a top opening weekends in film in Q1 2020, but Raya didn’t make the cut. As far as I can tell, Samba TV and 7Park didn’t provide updates either.

Luckily, three data sources is enough to make some estimates.

How Popular was Raya and the Last Dragon?

Um, middle of the road. As I wrote in my streaming ratings report yesterday, a good rule of thumb to determine if something is popular is whether it makes Nielsen’s combined “top ten” list for Nielsen. (Nielsen provides three separate top ten lists, sorted by Originals, Acquired and Films. I then combine them by total hours viewed into a refined top 30.) In terms of hours, Mulan was watched for 8.8 million hours during its opening weekend, but only 5.9 million hours for Raya and the Last Dragon.

You can see this in the Antenna data as well, which gives a good clue that both Nielsen and Antenna are measuring the same impact:

IMAGE 3 - Antenna - Raya Sign Ups

Finally, we can put these films into Google Trends as well. Again, similar story:

IMAGE 4 - Google Trends

So Raya was a fine film. It was definitely not a blockbuster, but did just well enough that it probably isn’t a total flop. (Notably, for Disney an “average” film is probably a flop for their expectations. But that’s because they are so far ahead in feature films.)

So How Many People Bought Raya and the Last Dragon?

To figure this out, first, I made a table comparing the estimates by their various different measurements:

Image 5 - Demand Comps

For a simpler look, here are those numbers in percentage terms:

IMAGE 6 - Percentage of Demand

Google Trends is the outlier, and Antenna and Nielsen are extremely close in their estimates, which makes me trust them both more. If you take nothing else away from this, you can say, 

“Raya was about 80% as popular as Mulan on PVOD.”

Lastly, using some math, I estimated the different potential units sold:

IMAGE 7 - Estimated Units Sold

There is a lot of math on this, so some quick notes on my assumptions:

– I used both my 1.2 million and 1.8 million units sold for Mulan to estimate the sales for Raya. I used both because both are reasonable estimates. I trust Nielsen most as a data source, but I also trust the poll of polls. 

– For Google Trends and Antenna, I multiplied their percentages by both those numbers. That gets numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 above.

– For Nielsen, I did the same analysis as Mulan, dividing viewership by the length of the film, which helped Raya in this case. However, I think Raya as a kids film has a higher completion percentage than Mulan. Actually, it could be dramatically higher, given that kids watch films over and over. My completion percentage is 125% for the low case. It is 100% for the regular case. This gave numbers 4 and 5 above.

– For both Nielsen numbers, I used 2.25 as the number of viewers per household.

With that math in hand, it gave me these numbers for the potential revenue in PVOD for Raya and the Last Dragon, which you can compare to Mulan above. 

IMAGE 8 - Revenue Estimates

How Did Raya Do At the Box Office?

Lastly, Raya also came out in theaters. While Mulan made nothing at the domestic box office, Raya did okay, and netted $93 million it its global run so far and $32 million at home. Here’s how that compares to other pandemic released titles, according to The Numbers:

IMAGE X - Theatrical

In Conclusion…

Those are the numbers. Again, what do they all mean? I’ll be honest, the initial draft of this article had, oh, a thousand extra words and I still didn’t answer that question as well as I wanted. So I’ll have more to say in the future. But for now we can say Disney again sold about a million units (plus or minus several hundred thousand) for its latest Premier Access title.

WandaVision and Coming 2 America Both Smash the Streaming Competition – The Streaming Ratings Report for 7-April-2021

If you’ve been reading my “Steaming Ratings Report” for the last few weeks, you might have noticed it has been fairly Netflix-centric. Netflix is the 600 pound gorilla in the streaming wars. Heck, it is more like a Mighty Joe Young or Rampage-sized super gorilla, marauding over the globe, buying sequel rights for half a billion at a pop. 

But if the movies have taught us anything about super gorillas, it is that nature always finds a way…to give them a worthy foe. In King Kong’s case, Godzilla. In Netflix’s case, that’s HBO Max, Disney+ and, this week, Prime Video, dropping formerly intended-for-theaters now straight-to-streaming blockbusters. Like Coming 2 America and Raya and the Last Dragon, which was Disney+’s latest “Premier Access” video.

Today, we’ll look at Coming 2 America in depth, and tomorrow I’ll do a special article on Raya over at my website. In addition to Coming 2 America, I have some unique insights on WandaVision now that it has finished its run.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report primarily covers data from Nielsen’s latest report, which covers the week of March 1st to 7th and is United States-focused. However, we also consider Netflix datecdotes, daily top ten lists, Google Trends and IMDb data in evaluating content. Also, to get this report in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.)

Film

IMAGE 1 - First Film

Let’s start with the good news for Prime Video, which was that their film did really, really well. It broke the “20 million hours” of total viewing threshold, which only three other films have done on their opening weekend going back to March of 2020.

Here’s the first week numbers for all films on Nielsen, going back to March 2020:

Screen Shot 2021-04-07 at 3.35.17 PMIMAGE 3 - Chart

What’s the biggest takeaway from this? That Disney+, HBO Max and Prime Video can compete for viewership as high as anything Netflix can deliver for a single film. Impressively, Coming 2 America joins this list as a film released on a “Friday” meaning it only had 3 days of viewership in the Nielsen ranking.

Of course, blockbusters aren’t made just by opening weekends, but staying power. What can we expect from Coming 2 America in its first full week of release?

According to the Nielsen data, the average film loses 63% viewership per day from week one to week two. Meaning, if Coming 2 America performs to the average, it will have 15.1 million hours of total viewership next week. Anything over that means its decay rate is beating expectations; anything lower means it is decaying faster than streaming films on average. You could convince me either way: on the one hand, Prime Video doesn’t release nearly as much content as Netflix, so folks may keep watching it; on the other, folks don’t watch Prime Video as regularly. In our one Prime Video data point, One Night in Miami decayed by 70% week over week.

All of which leads to the question, “Was this a good investment for Prime Video?” Industry reports put the price tag for Coming 2 America at $125 million for Amazon. In general, you’d have to say it is pretty good to get nearly as much viewership on an adult comedy like this compared to what Disney and HBO spent on their top two titles in December. (Both of which run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, versus the merely $125 million price tag of Coming 2 America, a film which cost $60 million to make.)

Or think of it like this: Prime Video spent about 33% more, reportedly, on Coming 2 America ($125 vs $80 million) than Borat, but got more than twice as much viewership. 

Tentatively, yeah I’d say this deal worked out for Amazon, though I still think that Coming 2 America would have done pretty well at theaters, a counter-factual we’ll never find the answer to.

Other Quick Notes on Film

– Fare thee well to Nomadland and The United States versus Billie Holiday on the film list. I was hoping this could be the week that we feature four different colors on the same top ten, but we’ll have to wait, maybe until Nielsen adds HBO Max viewing to their tracking.

IMAGE 4 - Nielsen Top 30

– What about Raya and the Last Dragon? Well, it was in the 17th spot on the top 30 list, which has to be a disappointment for Disney. (Mulan, for context, was 10th.) But not a huge disappointment, because getting folks to buy a movie for $30 is fundamentally more valuable than just watching it! But this is a complicated topic, so I wrote an entire article on it for tomorrow.

Bigfoot Family is a good example for why looking at both “total hours” and “viewership per day” is instructive. (The latter is also a metric you’ll only find here!) It actually rose in total viewership week-over-week (going from 5.6 million hours to 6.1) but still decreased in per day viewership by 52%.

– Netflix had some other new films make the list, including Moxie from Amy Poehler and Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, a documentary, at 4.3 million and 3.4 million hours, respectively.

Television

IMAGE 5 - TV Ratings Last Six(Spoiler warning: I intend to make some jokes about WandaVision’s plot.)

We spent a lot of time on film today, since it was pretty fun, but you know what? We have a fun story with TV to tell too. Specifically, today is the day that WandaVision gets its turn in the spotlight (or should I say “reality altering bubble”).

As you can see above, WandaVision is unique compared to most streaming shows because it actually grew viewership week-over-week. It debuted a new episode weekly and grew the audience along with it. Now that the series has ended, we can compare viewership during its entire run to the entire run of some other Netflix series. The total viewership of WandaVision actually compares favorably to other shows on Netflix. Over 8 weeks of time, as opposed to one weekend, WandaVision was the twelfth most watched show in my data set:

IMAGE 6 - Total Viewerhsip

(This chart was made by sorting all “first run original” series on their respective streamer, through the first 8 weeks of viewing.)

But let’s not stop there. It isn’t very fair to compare WandaVision with only 9 episodes released over 8 weeks to some of these shows, like The Crown, Ozark or Cobra Kai which have 40, 30 or 30 episodes released to date. So let’s trot out our “viewership per episode” metric I’ve been using. And we get this…

IMAGE 7 - VPE

Suddenly, WandaVision and The Mandalorian are now up to the fourth and fifth most popular shows according to this bespoke measurement. And these would probably hold up even if we had more data from 2020. (The Queen’s Gambit likely would have added additional viewership during its weeks seven and eight, if we had the current reporting system of three top ten lists.) 

Admittedly, this metric biases for series that have recently launched, since they tend to have many fewer episodes. Still, among that class of show, WandaVision and The Mandalorian likely outperformed most Netflix Originals.

But can we go one step further? As long as we’ve taken over an entire town via mind control, we may as well bring back our dead robot-husband, right? 

Let’s magic into existence one more metric. Unlike the other shows on this list, WnadaVision episodes were short. The first episode was only 30 minutes. Half an hour! And a lot of the run time is just dubbing credits. (Literally, like five minutes worth.)

So could we account for that? A “viewership per available hour” metric, meaning it accounts for the total viewership for the total amount of content folks could watch? Why yes we could!

IMAGE 8 - VPAH

There you have it. An analysis of the Nielsen data you won’t find anywhere else. And yes, in this metric, WandaVision leaps to the top spot. The meaning? I believe that more unique viewers likely tuned into this show than any other Netflix Original released this year, except for maybe Bridgerton. Or The Mandalorian and maybe The Queen’s Gambit in Q4 of 2020.

By the way, this shouldn’t be too surprising! The two most popular franchises in America—after Knives Out of course—are Marvel and Star Wars. And when you look at Google Trends, yep, these are our two highest ranked shows for longest. First, without The Mandalorian, and then with it:

IMAGE 9 - Without Mando

Image 10 - With Mando

So I just dropped three different, totally valid, metrics to judge TV show performances. (Technically four with Google Trends.) Which metric is “best” to judge a show? Well, that depends! Entertainment isn’t like sports, which have clear winners and losers. Instead, it depends on what your business metrics are how the various shows support those metrics.

For Disney, these numbers are fantastic. It means using their weekly release model, they really can drive as much subscriber tune in as the top Netflix series. Of course, Netflix in some cases is launching four or five series at this level every quarter. Really it is a question of tradeoffs: is it better for one series each quarter to keep people subscribed, or multiple series every month that drive higher usage? That’s a business strategy question we’ll see play out this year.

Other Quick Notes on TV

-As I speculated last week, Ginny & Georgia went on to grab the top spot in the streaming ratings. If the weekly top ten list is to be believed, it could hold onto that spot for a few weeks.

– The latest crime documentary is Murder Among the Mormons, which launched to 9.8 million hours viewed. Which is good, but behind some other recent launches.

– Since Nielsen separates out “originals” into their own top ten list, we’ve seen some older Netflix originals finally show up in the top ten viewing. The latest is Orange is the New Black, with 4 million hours of viewing.

Competition

The most popular piece of non-streaming content during the week of March 1st was fairly clearly the Meghan Markle-Oprah interview that aired on Sunday March 7th. Unfortunately, Paramount+ isn’t tracked by Nielsen, so we don’t have streaming ratings. But 17.1 million people tuned in live for this one show, which shows you how much room some the streamers still have to grow.

Coming Soon! 

– The big story of the week, to continue the gorilla theme, is that HBO Max is out touting that Godzilla vs Kong did very well for them. Which is notably more than they said about Snyder Cut. (Others said that the new Justice League did well, but not HBO PR.) Fingers crossed we’ll get more data on this in a few weeks, though so far Nielsen hasn’t released any HBO data since Wonder Woman 1984.

A Skinny Bundle Murder Mystery (And Knives Out Thoughts) – Most Important Story of the Week – 2-April-2021

Much like Benoit Blanc, the title character of a film series I’m about to write about, every week I find myself hunting for clues. Tidbits. Hints. Insights to answer one, yearning question: What was the most important story this week? This week required a bit more searching than usual. (I don’t interview suspects, I read news stories.) To pound the detective analogy to death, the most likely suspect was not the most important. So what is?

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Most Important Story of the Week – T-Mobile Shuts Down “TVision”

Let’s say you’re driving around Los Angeles. You see a gas station selling gas for $1 per gallon. What do you think?

You think something is going horribly, horribly wrong.

Why? Because gas is a commodity, meaning mostly it sells for the going rate because there is no competitive advantage to any one gas station’s prices. (Is Chevron with Techron a lie? Not really, but it’s also not really different from most gas.) Since Los Angeles has some of the highest gas prices in the US, if someone is selling you $1 gasoline, they’re either scamming you, selling stolen gas, or they’re trying to corner the gasoline market by selling goods under cost.

This hypothetical–with all attendant alarm bells–should be in everyone’s head whenever a new bundler is out there touting some bundle with remarkably low costs for cable TV. Youtube TV and Hulu Live TV both started this trend. AT&T then doubled wayyyyy down on it. Others followed suit. But inevitably, they all had to raise prices over time. In some cases nearly doubling the initial offered price. 

The logic is sort of clear and inescapable: cable channels have set prices negotiated over years by cable and satellite providers (MVPDs) and the cable channel owners. Virtual MVPDs (like Youtube TV and Hulu TV) pay lower prices per channel, but not that much lower. Otherwise MVPDs would demand much lower prices too. There is basically a floor for how much it costs to run an MVPD or vMVPD.

Just how did Youtube, Hulu and AT&T manage to offer lower prices? By losing money on each given sale to gain market share. They sold gas at $1 per gallon, in other words. The old fashioned, if-we-lose-$1-on every-unit-we’ll-make-it-up-in-volume-thinking. But in this case, losing sometimes $20-30 per month. Once customers were hopefully locked in, they would raise prices and keep the customers. 

The problem, especially for DirecTV/AT&T’s offering, was they couldn’t keep the customers. Unlike MVPDs, which tend to have very high switching costs and/or local monopolies, digital is very easy to switch. As soon as costs go up, customers switch providers. 

Which made the T-Mobile announcement last year of a new skinny bundle called “TVision” all the more surprising. The skinny bundle had come and been found wanting. At the time of the announcement, I was skeptical that this time would be any different. Indeed, last week we found out that T-Mobile was ending TVision, and instead partnering with Youtube TV (who is likely still losing money per subscriber, but funding it via an advertising duopoly and search monopoly) and Philo TV. And now customers get a whole $10 off each respective service.

Why is this the most important story? Because it shows that customers do want these services, just nowhere near the prices demanded by the current cable bundle. This story both shows the lingering customer demand, but also the inevitable pricing challenges. My guess is this won’t be the last time we see a skinny bundle, but they’ll face the same challenges. The bundle is dead, but it won’t stay that way.

Covid-19 Tracker – Godzilla Big Weekend

Listen, if this article is supposed to cover the news of the last week, then arguably this “news” didn’t happen last week; it took place over the weekend. To defend myself, we had good indications by Friday that Gozilla vs Kong would have a strong opening weekend, and beat box office expectations. And it delivered, along with a very strong performance in China.

This feels meaningful for at least a few trends. First, the death of cinema and theatrical attendance is far from certain. Every weekend the box office outperforms expectations is a step closer to the new normal for theaters in America, especially as more theaters reopen, increase capacity, and feature bigger films. It could take months to get back to where theaters were pre-pandemic–if they ever even get there–but all the available data says we’ll be much closer to $11 billion per year spent on theater tickets than “$0”, which some analysts forecast last March.

(To channel Debbi Downer, though, the recovery will take months. So lots of pain still to come.)

As for the simultaneous HBO Max release…hoo boy that’s a big topic. And one I won’t answer today. Because we can’t. We only have one piece of data so far–box office–so we’re really missing one side of the equation, the streaming ratings.  I’ll reiterate what I said last week: I think shortened windows are here to stay, but tend to think day-and-date streaming and theatrical is not. But numbers like these help the streamers’ case that day-and-date streaming may not hurt theatrical. But in today’s Covid disrupted world, Im’ not ready to make that case yet.

Other Contender for Most Important Story – Netflix Buys Knives Out Sequels for $450 Million

I subscribe to so many newsletters on entertainment that I can’t keep count. (I probably could count them, but I won’t.) This allows me to see the story that tends to capture “conversation”, especially among the influencers, aspiring influencers, journalists and Celebrity Wall Street Media Futurists (trademark Patrick Crakes). This week, that story was pretty clearly Netflix shelling out $450 million to Rian Johnson and team (that part is important) for the sequels to Knives Out

I was as fascinated as anyone by this story. Though it clearly isn’t the most important of the week, it is the most “thought provoking”. So here are some odds and ends thoughts on it.

– I read all three trade articles on the deal and the biggest unknown is still all the unknowns. This goes from what exactly Netflix purchased (Sequel rights? Franchise rights? Fees to previous distributors? Distribution for the first film?) to how much they are actually paying. I’d break it down into three big areas: the rights for the sequels, the production/marketing costs for the films (with backend), and the rights for the franchise. If I could know anything, I’d love to know what those pieces are expected to cost and how long Netflix will own those rights.

– The best framework for looking at this deal is via risk. Yes, online we want to categorize things into “good or bad” deals. That’s easy. (And it fits the social media antagonistic mindset.) But in a probabilistic world–and if you don’t think we live in a probabilistic world, I’m probably not the website for you–no deal is all good or all bad. Instead, the better way to think about investments is how risky they are for the return. Likely, Netflix built a model. In that model, in some cases, they only make $200 million in revenue off this deal. That’s the bad case. But in some, very rare scenarios, they make a billion. That’s great! In some, they just make $400 million. In other words, you run all those scenarios, and the “expected value” of this rights deal could be, say, $470 million. (Again, a made up number.) If Netflix paid $450, then they expect to make about  $20 million on average in this deal. (Again, made up numbers for explanation purposes.)

– The deal is risky precisely because of that $20 million. (My guess, remember.) Whenever the price is sooooooo close to the expected value, the deal is by nature risky. And we know it is close because Apple and Amazon were aggressively bidding on it too. And since Rian Johnson and team likely chose the highest bidder, they probably got the deal closest to the “expected value” of this bundle of rights (remember, it could go from literally just the two sequels up to owning the entire series now). This is called, in economics, the “winner’s curse”. If you have a lot of bidders on something, the odds increase that the winner of the auction likely overpaid. To return it to the “risk” framing, the more bidders, with the more deep pockets, the riskier the deal will be.

– That is assuming the expected value is even positive. If you’ve bought a lottery ticket or gambled in Vegas, those are negative expected value propositions. Could Netflix and other suitors paid have been prepared to pay $450 for $400 million of expected value? Definitely. Because that happens in entertainment all the time. Especially when certain suitors can “afford” to lose money. (Though I hate that phrase.)

– It is also fascinating that it was three big tech companies that were the final three rumored bidders. If I could, I’d love a machine that would allow me to send news stories to analysts/opinion makers stripped of key details. (The dream would be for film criticism. Like you could send a film to a critic and say, “What do you think?” but they’d have no idea who directed it, do you think that would change some opinions?) In this case, I’m convinced that some analysts who praised this deal would have excoriated it, if they first were told it was done by Warner Bros or Disney. In other words, the same deal becomes a genius deal if a Big Tech firm does it, but disastrous if a legacy media firm does it. Obviously, I can’t prove this hypothetical, but in many cases I think it’s true. And bad analysis.

– Lastly, the main upside for Netflix seems to be the hoped for “franchise” play. Meaning that Netflix isn’t just buying two films, but a whole series of films, with potentially TV show spinoffs and international versions. Three quick thoughts on this. First, again after reading the trade coverage like a sleuth, I’m not convinced that’s the case. Given how enormous the paychecks were for keeping rights to the franchise, wouldn’t Rian Johnson and producing partner Ram Bergman have been smarter to keep those rights? I’d say so. That includes controlling international versions and TV rights. Is it really crazy to think that Netflix would pay $225 per film given that they paid that much for The Irishman? I don’t think so.

– Second, I saw some folks using franchise rights as a hand waive to say, “Well, it was worth it because you can’t put a price tag on owning a franchise.” Yes you can! I spent thousands of words explaining how Disney did that for Star Wars. And frankly, franchise rights are lower than most folks would guess. Basically, every film in a series is a chance to fail. And once a franchise fails, well, the sequels after it are much harder to justify. If you don’t believe me, look up The Hangover or Hobbit franchises. Or read my article on franchises here. It’s hard to make one good film. It’s even harder to make three in a row. (But the basic equation is the value of all potential franchise properties multiplied by the success rate of the franchise multiplied by the probability that you can make each one.)

– What about international adaptations? Well, sure, Netflix could make those, and distribute them to their platform. But, wait what? Isn’t the whole power of Netflix that they can make a film in India and make it popular globally? Why would a local audience want to watch a Knives Out remake if Netflix is already offering them the original? If you need to make local adaptations, that would seem to negate that advantage? Maybe the power of global distribution doesn’t actually work out as well as touted. (Indeed, Netflix is making Money Heist for South Korea.)

Other Contenders for Most Important Story

Let’s do some quick hits and wrap this thing up.

NBCU Is Considering Another Streamer?

To use my recent classification, is this “actual” news or potential? Well, the next three stories are all “potential” stories. In this case, there are rumors from a well connected reporter that NBCU is considering launching another streamer, maybe Universal branded, to pair with Peacock. If this happens–and it is a big if–we’ll have lots of strategy thoughts to roll out. But let’s wait until it happens.

Comcast Weights Pulling Universal Films From Rival Streamers

Same for this story. If Comcast, via Universal, keeps selling box office blockbuster juggernauts–like The Minions films or Fast and Furious series–to streamers like Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max, they really need to reconsider their strategy.

NCAA Case at Supreme Court

Lastly, we spend way too much time in political reporting guessing what the Supreme Court will do ahead of time. But it is fair to point out that the NCAA court case on amateurism could have huge ramifications on college athletics in America.

Netflix Claims the Top Spots While Disney+/Hulu Dominate the Film List: The Streaming Ratings Report for 31-Mar-2021

Last week, the Nielsen Top Ten lists broke new ground when Hulu had its first title earn a spot on one of the three lists. This week, Hulu doubled its performance, earning two spots!

IMAGE 1 - T30

As always, caveats abound. In particular, the top films have much less “total viewership” than TV series, since they simply aren’t as long, almost by definition. (A film is 2 hours, whereas most drama series are at least 4 hours, often 10 hours long.) This point is worth keeping in mind as the theme of this week, especially as we check in on how “competitive” the streaming wars are in top content.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report primarily covers data from Nielsen’s latest report, which covers the week of February 22nd to 28th and is United States-focused. However, we also consider Netflix datecdotes, daily top ten lists, Google Trends and IMDb data in evaluating content.)

Television

IMAGE 2 - TV Ratings Last Six Weeks

As usual, the top spot on our weekly top 30 list is from Netflix, but close on its heels is the indefatigable WandaVision, whose penultimate episode powered its way to the second place spot on the “Top Ten Originals” list by Nielsen. (Along with a new record in viewing.) Based on Google Trends interest, we can rightly bet that the finale will go even higher. We’ll have to wait to see if it takes the top spot next week. 

Image 3 - G Trends

The show vying to keep it off the list is Netflix’s new drama Ginny & Georgia. At first glance, its opening weekend was a bit soft, below stronger debuts from both Firefly Lane and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. To put this in context, here’s the first two weeks of Netflix’s first run TV series since November:

IMAGE 4 - Show one Week

I’d call a show with 30 million viewers in one week “great”, and 20-30 million “good”, and 10-20 million “meh”. (Yes, “meh” is a technical term.) Staying below is 10 million is a dud. Ginny & Georgia is currently in our “meh” tier through week one. The bad news for Ginny & Georgia is that most shows don’t increase viewership over time. Here’s a sample of first run shows that premiered since December:

Image 5 Week Decay

In this admittedly small sample size, 7 shows had smaller audiences and only two had bigger second weeks. But there is some good news for G&G. Some shows can take time find their footing, as both The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton showed last year. As the Google Trends chart showed, unlike most Netflix shows, Ginny & Georgia had a slower rise than most new releases. But it looks like that rise will hold; G&G nabbed the top spot in the Netflix TV like it daily top ten list, which is a good forecaster of Nielsen ratings. (More to come on this in future articles.)

Image 6 - NFLX Top Ten

The one limit to top ten data is that a show can take the top spot, but that could be more of a reflection of a light TV slate than a strong individual show. Given that it looks like G&G sticks around for a few week, I’d say it has a good chance for a strong second week. We’ll see. 

Other Quick Notes on TV

– I’m working on classifying everything into “kids” versus “adult” (but not adult meaning “pornography”, I mean like older folks). This week felt light on true kids content in the TV space, with only Cocomelon holding down the younger kids fort. Cocomelon is clearly the biggest beneficiary of kids watching and rewatching the same limited number of episodes. 

The Crew had a fairly steep drop off from a weak start, so we can officially say it bombed. Yes, that’s a bit harsh, but hey, you’re not tuning in to a ratings report for me to pull my punches, are you? Overall, sitcoms do seem to struggle in the metrics (including, datecdotes, Nielsen and weekly top ten). Either 1. Streaming doesn’t work for sitcoms or 2. Netflix doesn’t have nearly as good a track record with sitcoms as hour dramas. (Before you ask, yes I’ve considered that sitcoms have shorter episodes, but the success of some of the Netflix crime documentaries, which can be shorter than sitcom seasons, refutes that. Moreover, that should’t impact subscriber households. More to come!)

Film

IMAGE 7 - Film First and Second Run

Let’s start with the content geared towards adults first. I Care A Lot had a bigger second week than its premiere week, which has been the trend for popular films launched on a Friday. Being able to hold onto the third spot in the weekly top ten is great for a feature film, though also some evidence that the week was lighter in content overall.

Meanwhile, Nomadland stayed on the list and The United States versus Billie Holiday made it onto the top ten. For Hulu, this is good news. But they still have quite a ways to go. 

Consider this: we know Hulu has about half as many subscribers as Netflix in the US. (About 40 million for Hulu; about 65 million for Netflix.) Assuming these three films were all about the same length (they were), and everyone watched about the same amount, then roughly 1 out of every 38 Hulu subscribers watched Billie Holiday and 1 in every 20 watched Nomadland, but 1 in every 5 Netflix subscribers tuned into I Care A Lot. 

Maybe I Care A Lot is simply a better film with more inherent interest. More likely, Netflix is still the biggest player in the streaming game. That means it can drive extra viewing to its titles, which is the biggest challenge for the upstart streamers to battle.

Moving onto kids, the big player is still Disney, which placed four kids films into the top 10, including the second week of Flora & Ulysses. (Using the percentage of viewership, about 1 in 10 Disney+ subscribers watched that in its first two weeks.) Meanwhile, Disney as a whole grabbed 7 of the top ten film slots, though Netflix’s animated Bigfoot Family came in second to I Care A Lot. In other words, Disney claims the library title slots, but Netflix claims the “new release” spots. 

Other Quick Notes on Film

The Conjuring 2, a licensed title from 2016, is the latest library title to take the top spot after being a new release on Netflix. This title is owned long term by Warner Bros, so it joins the list of titles that one wonders when it will permanently move to HBO Max.

– Another good international title launch. Bigfoot Family is a Belgian-French production and it debuted to the second spot in the film top ten list. Some other foreign animated titles have done well as well, most notably the Spanish-produced Klaus. My working (and not very original) theory is that dubbing is simply easier in animation.

Competition

The theme of this week may be “let’s not get carried away” with Hulu catching up to Netflix. (And the rest of the streamers as well.) As notable as it is that Disney dominates the film list, the film list, that is frankly an easier list to dominate as a smaller service. The rule of thumb at the streamers is that “films bring customers; TV keeps them”. 

Hulu, of all the streamers, should be great at the TV side of the house, given how much day-after-air TV they have. Yet, they still haven’t really cracked these lists in TV. But they did in film. Looking at the percentage of viewing by the major streamers this year, clearly Netflix’s size is still dominant:

Image 8 - Totals

Last point: This was the lowest week in total viewing measured in the top 30 list since Nielsen began releasing it this year, with 207 million total hours compared to 290 during the Christmas break.

Coming Soon! 

– We’re starting to get hints that the Snyder cut of the Justice League really is doing the business for HBO Max. Both Antenna and Samba TV have speculated on the growth it drove. I’ll opine on this after I’ve collected all the datecdotes and, hopefully, we get Nielsen data on it. (Same for Raya and the Last Dragon, which should come next week.)

– Netflix has released a stream of datecdotes recently, but the most interesting was announcing that in addition to 33 million viewers at launch, Our Planet has had 100 million viewers over its lifetime. This number begs for context, so I’ll work on it. (That’s the third “more to come” of this column.)

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