An Animated, Intergalactic Showdown between Hulu and Amazon…Who Won? – Streaming Ratings Report 28-April-2021

For the second week, we have another “first”! This time, the first Hulu Original to earn a spot on the Nielsen top ten “originals” list. At some point, we’ll run out of firsts, but for now setting new records is fun!

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report compiles data from Nielsen’s viewership report, Netflix datecdotes, Top Ten lists, Google Trends and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the week of March 22nd to 28th.

Television

In the long run—I probably type that every week, but trust me my to-do list for streaming viewership is long—I don’t just want to celebrate success, I also want to luxuriate in failures. That’s really the history of box office coverage: for as fun as it is to celebrate films smashing records (think Avengers: Endgame) it is equally delightful to watch the bombs (think John Carter from Mars). 

Given the limits of my data sets—I only use publicly available information—that can sometimes lead to what I call “dogs not barking”. Meaning I can forget to check in on shows that don’t make the Nielsen top ten lists. There is so much content releasing every week in streaming, that shows can slide under the radar.

This week has a potential example of that. Specifically, we had an “animation battle” between the second season of Solar Opposites on Hulu (16 episodes to date, averaging 22 minutes per episode) and the first season of Invincible (3 episodes at launch, averaging 45 minutes per episode). 

This is truly an “animation showdown” because of the creative auspices of both titles. Solar Opposites was created by one half of the Rick & Morty team. Invincible is based off the long-running Robert Kirkman comic series. Kirkman, of course, also created The Walking Dead, arguably one of the top five most popular series in the 2010s.

So far, Solar Opposites is winning. It just snuck into the top ten, earning the last spot with 3.3 million hours viewed. Invincible didn’t even make the list.

So can we call Invincible a dud? Not quite. With streaming, a few factors can influence how many minutes a title racks up in its first week including:

– Number of episodes
– Length of episodes
– Release style
– Release day

Remember, Nielsen measures total viewership, so the more minutes available to consume over the more days, the more likely a show is to make the top ten. (Look at Ozark or The Crown for examples in 2020 of shows that benefitted from lots of episodes. This is also what makes Bridgeton’s sky high viewing even more impressive.) 

In this case, Invincible is at a disadvantage compared to Solar Opposites in that it launched with only 3 episodes. Further, both titles released later in the week (Thursday and Friday, respectively), so presumably Invincible could make the top ten next week, especially as it continues releasing episodes. (It could also benefit from the “buzz” effect as its weekly release gets weekly reviews from news outlets.) Invincible will also benefit from its longer, 44 minute episodes to Solar Opposites 22 minute half-hours.

In fact, if Google Trends is right, the inherent interest in Invincible is slightly higher than Solar Opposites, though both trail the big Marvel shows, for comparison. 

That said, it sure would have been nice for Invincible to make this list. Disney has been able to pull that trick off with two season one series so far, WandaVision and The (Hero Formerly Known As) Falcon and Winter Soldier. For more context, here’s the viewership data for all the non-Netflix Originals in my data base, from July 2020 on:

We’ll check in on Invincible after next week. If it still doesn’t make the list, then it likely didn’t resonate with Prime Video’s customers, but it has a good shot to move up.

Other Quick Notes on TV

The Falcon and Winter Soldier had a solid bump from week one to week two. WandaVision, in contrast, saw a decline into its second week. Since Falcon and Winter Soldier features more famous characters from the MCU, and longer episodes this is somewhat expected, though still phenomenal. As the third successful genre launch for Disney+ in a row, Disney+’s high-end TV is crushing it.

– Netflix continues to import British series to the US and turn them into moderate hits. The latest is The Irregulars, which features a group of teenagers who assist Dr. Watson in protecting Victorian London from supernatural threats. This is the latest Sherlock Holmes inspired project at Netflix, following Enola Holmes last fall. (So the “algorithm” at Netflix apparently loves teenage dramas, with either magic or Sherlock Holmes.) Glancing at the upcoming weekly top tens, The Irregulars should fall off the Nielsen list in two weeks.

– Speaking of the Netflix top ten lists, Ginny & Georgia was finally bumped off by The Irregulars, and both will be replaced by Who Killed Sara?, which should hold that top spot for the next two weeks. As a reminder, Netflix said 55 million households watched Who Killed Sara? in its first four weeks, including the highest ever viewership in the US for a non-English TV show.

Film

This week—given that it was a light week for new streaming films in general—we can dive into Netflix’s additional datecdotes they release last week in their first quarter earnings report. Overall, Netflix had a lot of singles, but not home runs. For this analogy, I’d call a home run a film that makes it into their top ten all time list. 

Here’s what that list looks like:

To put this in context, there have been 59 film datecdotes, two sketchy and 57 legitimate, meaning they came from Netflix or a Netflix approved social leak. Netflix gave us 8 datecdotes for film this quarter, including six in their earnings report last week. They had also leaked three datecdotes via Twitter, and updated two of those in the earnings report. As is Netflix’s standard procedure, the two updates were higher than the initial Twitter estimates. 

(Cynically, should this make us wonder if The Midnight Sky and The White Tiger, the two most recent estimates that didn’t get updates, actually did worse than their initial estimates? Yes, yes it should.)

You can also see how down the quarter was by comparing it to past quarters. Filtering for only “hits”, meaning films that did roughly 40 million household subscribers worldwide, you can see that in total terms Netflix was flat this quarter, or down if you factor in the growth of the service:

Other Quick Notes on Film

– We already have a new datecdote this quarter! Netflix announced that Thunder Force—the Octavia Spencer/Melissa McCarthy superhero comedy—will be watched by an estimated 52 million households in its first 28 days. In other words, right on track for what To All The Boys and I Care a Lot did. So another “single”. Fine, maybe a double.

Jiu Jitsu is a rare beast for Netflix, a first-run title that is not branded as a Netflix Original. (The only other example in my database is Deadly Illusions from earlier this year.) I’d chalk both circumstances up to the films being lower budget, but also the pandemic making for strange release strategies.

– The top Netflix film and new release was Bad Trip, and it debuted to 5.1 million hours on a Friday release. Based off its Friday release and the upcoming top ten data, it should do okay going forward, but this is still a fairly small launch number.

Coming Soon! 

In four weeks, we’ll check back in on the Oscar nominated/winning films to see if they got an “Oscars” bounce. This got me curious for how well last year’s winner—Parasite—did when it premiered on Hulu. At the time, Hulu announced that Parasite broke records, but I didn’t have access to Nielsen’s viewership data to confirm. Unfortunately, even if I did, Nielsen didn’t add Hulu and Disney+ to their measurements until August of last year.

Still, we can do some logic games here. You know those logic puzzles with hints like “Bill is wearing a blue shirt. Sally is not wearing a red or yellow shirt. What color shirt is John wearing?” type of games? Here are the logic clues we have:

Parasite was Hulu’s second most watched film on its opening weekend.
Palm Springs then broke this record in July.
Run opened in November and became Hulu’s most watched film through its opening. It didn’t make the Nielsen Top Ten list, though, who’s lowest volume that week was 7.8 million hours.
Nomadland debuted in February at 2.3 million total hours in its opening weekend. The United States vs Billie Holiday followed it with 2.1 million total hours in its opening.
Palm Springs was Hulu’s most watched film in 2020. Parasite was the most watched film from March to May.

Put it all together and I can give you this vague table:

We know for sure that Palm Springs and Run are Hulu’s most popular films after their opening weekends. We also know that one other film was more popular than Parasite, which by logic was their fourth most popular opener. However, we don’t know if either Nomadland or The United States vs Billie Holiday were more popular than Parasite or even Palm Springs.

However! We do know that the max viewership of Run, Palm Springs and Parasite was 7.8 million hours, since Run didn’t crack the top ten list during its debut. And since Nomadland debuted to 2.3 million hours, and didn’t get a PR “we broke records” announcement, presumably Run earned between 2.3 and 7.8 million total hours during their opening weekends. Logic!

Is that a good performance? Probably not. In context, that’s would put those films between the Eurovision Song Contest from last June, and The Dig, from this January, which are the 25th and 29th ranked first weeks of all time. So I do think these films were hits for Hulu, but not hits in general.

As for Nomadland, I expect we’ll see it get an Oscar bounce, since winning the Oscars results in lots of free media exposure. See…

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