Who Did Better, WandaVision or The Falcon and Winter Soldier? It Doesn’t Matter, Disney Wins Either Way – Streaming Ratings Report 26-May-21

I leave for one week of vacation and come back to not one, but two big merger announcements. If all the merger news of the last two weeks shows us anything, it’s the value of top tier content. And what’s the easiest way—allegedly—to do that? By mining “IP” to make reboots, remakes and and prequels.

Since we have two weeks of data to sift through, let’s get right to it.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, 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 weeks of April 12th and 19th.)

Television

Speaking of IP, right now, there is nothing bigger than the MCU. Their latest entry in the streaming wars, The Falcon and Winter Soldier, had its season finale a month ago, which means we have Nielsen ratings to show how well the entire series performed.

The best comp for “NuCap” is its predecessor, WandaVision. I really wanted to make a call to say which did better, but I can’t do it. The shows are too dissimilar: WandaVision went for 9 episodes over eight weeks and NuCap was 6 episodes in six weeks. And NuCap’s episodes were closer to an hour in length to WandaVision’s 30 minutes. To account for this, I pulled each series’ the total viewership, viewership per episode and viewership per available hour—three looks which try to account for number and length of episodes—to get…

…a big “depends”. Total viewership, WandaVision’s full run did better, but NuCap hasn’t had 8 weeks of data yet. NuCap wins the “viewership per episode” crown, but Wanda takes the prize accounting for length. 

Looking at other ratings sources, upon its conclusion The Falcon and Winter Solider had an IMDb ratings bump after the last episode (as WandaVision had too), breaking 100K ratings (to WandaVision’s 172K). WandaVision also had a higher average rating, with an 8.1 to Falcon’s average 7.5. As I noted before, WandaVision drove higher Google Trends data. Slight edge to WandaVision then.

But guess what? It doesn’t really matter. Both series did very well, and are keeping the MCU brand alive and kicking, while driving Disney+ usage. If Loki continues this streak, it will set up Black Widow—by most metrics the most anticipated film of the summer—nicely and the MCU will continue its reign as the king of franchises.

Quick Notes on TV

– Netflix’s latest reality competition series The Circle dropped its second season. notably is NOT a binge release. This is rare for Netflix, but not unprecedented, as a few big Netflix reality competition series release on a semi-regular basis, like The Great British Baking Show and both Love is Blind and The Circle last year. (For the latter two, Netflix doesn’t release episodes weekly, but in batches.) Given the lack of season 2 releases in the publicly available data, we have put this as a “shoulder shrug emoji” until we get more data.

– How well did the surprise Prime Video performer hold up over my vacation? Pretty well. Them maintained its momentum and grew from week 1 to week 2. Interestingly, you can really see the shape of “weekly vs binge” release. For series that are successful—a key caveat because underperforming series just disappear—weekly releases tend to build over time. That’s a pattern we saw with The Mandalorian, WandaVision, The Boys and The Falcon and Winter Soldier. Binge release series—especially those released on a Friday—tend to have a big jump from week 1 to week 2, then they fall way off into their third week of release. You can see how darn similar The Irregulars, Them and Who Killed Sara performed above. (And yes, I hope to quantify this shape in the long term.)

Shadow and Bone was the biggest Netflix release in the last two Nielsen top ten lists. (It debuted on Friday April 23rd.) Is it another young adult fantasy series? Of course it is. Keeping in mind it had a Friday debut, it launched about as well as Fate: The Winx Saga earlier this year (12 million hours to 11.2). Looking ahead, it claimed the top spot on the weekly top ten lists for the weeks of April 26th and May 3rd. My gut is it has a great second week, but then a drop off when Jupiter’s Legacy comes out.

Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! Is the latest half-hour to drop off quickly after launch. Given the talent involved—Jamie Foxx—this would seem to be a fairly big miss, but most sitcoms don’t seem to last on Netflix. This is also a topic I just wrote down to dig deeper into as we get more data.

– In licensed content news two new rentals made the top ten list, The Beauty and the Baker and Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn. Though even though the former is acquired, it will act more like a first run series with eight episodes—having a second life on Netflix a la You—whereas Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn is a formerly Nickelodeon kids title with a huge volume of episodes (83) for kids to watch. Likely The Beauty and the Baker will drop off this list, while Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn could pop on and off.

– In the “dogs not barking” category of series that dropped off our radar, it looks like Amazon’s Invincible and Solar Opposites still haven’t returned to the top ten list. It will be interesting to see if Invincible can do it when it has its season finale.

– Lastly in TV, Netflix has another nature documentary, Life in Color with David Attenborugh. Which immediately made me curious if this is the first nature documentary to make a top ten list, and after scanning the list be genres, it does appear to be the first to make a top ten list since March of 2020. Netflix has invested heavily in nature documentaries, and so has their rivals. So this is a sub-category to watch.

Film

Ratings data comes in two forms: rankings and volume. An example of the former is Netflix’s top ten list. It just tells you the order of performance, which is directionally useful. But pretty limited. That’s why I love Nielsen data: it provides actual amounts of how much something performed.

You can see the value in this week’s film report. As I speculated earlier this month, Thunder Force, Synchronic and Stowaway would all do well because each topped the Netflix top ten lists, with scores of 57, 58 and 57 in their second weeks. (The score assigns 10 points for the top film, then 9 for the second and so on.) Yet, you can see that Thunder Force won the top spot by a huge margin over Synchronic’s similar performance. Likely this is at least partially due to the fact that Thunder Force was an original—meaning Netflix produced film— so got extra marketing. We’ll see how well Stowaway holds on to its audience into its first full week of release.

Quick Notes on Film

– Other than those three buzzy films, the rest of the schedule continued to be light on feature films. Why Did You Kill Me? Is the latest entry in Netflix’s true crime documentary oeuvre. 

– As for kids, they’ve taken over the list in a quiet week. Raya and the Last Dragon stayed on the list as Coming 2 America dropped off, showing the power of repeat viewing on Disney+. (It will be interesting how its performance changes when it enters Disney+ for non-TVOD viewing. Toss in two Frozen’s, Moana, Soul (back on the list) and The Little Rascals for Netflix and kids viewership has taken over the movie slot.

– Netflix has a big title on the way for kids too, the Sony-produced The Mitchell’s and the Machine, which claimed the top spot on the top ten list, with a near perfect 69 for the week of May 10th.

– Lastly in film, The Stand In is the rare non-Netflix original, Pay 1 film to make the top ten in film. Not that this doesn’t happen all the time, it’s just that we haven’t had data for non-Covid, shuttered theatrical releases yet. That said, this was clearly a small film and got little buzz when it was released.

Coming Soon! 

– Next week we’ll see if the Oscar’s drove any extra viewing to Nomadland. This Nielsen data covered through the Sunday the Oscar’s premiered, and preparing for the show didn’t seem to have an impact.

– I’m also putting Zach Snyder’s Army of the Dead on the list of films to monitor. It had a one week limited theatrical release, though Netflix didn’t disclose box office performance. Action films have done very well on Netflix—6 Underground, Spenser Confidential, The Old Guard, Extraction—and Army of the Dead should continue that streak.

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