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!

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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

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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. 

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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:

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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:

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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.)

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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

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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:

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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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