If this week has a theme, it’s Halloween, since the ratings period covered by Nielsen—October 11th to 17th—is smack dab in the middle of October.
But honestly you know what is scarier for others streamers? How well Netflix is doing.
(If you missed it, my thoughts on Black Widow’s disappointing streaming debut went up at the Ankler on TUESDAY. Check it out!)
(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 October 11th to October 17th.)
As the ratings from the last six weeks above show, Netflix is on a roll. They’ve launched three successful TV releases in a row: Squid Game on 17-Sep, The Maid on 1-Oct, and now the third season of You on 15-Oct.
While the first two were a bit surprising—and both had slow starts—You came rocketing out of the gates. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, since You was one of Netflix’s first “rescued” series. After a mediocre debut on Lifetime, season one released on 26-Dec-2018 and was watched by 54 million households in its first four weeks on Netflix. (Nearly 39% of their subscribers at the time.) The series sustained that season 1 licensed momentum, with season 2 reaching the heights of 53.9 million hours viewed in its second week of viewership in December of 2019.
And season 3 seems to be picking up where the other two left off. At 32.3 million hours, season three has already joined the “30 million hours” club, with the 11th highest week this year and the 28th highest since March of 2020. Based on the “binge release curve”, You could pass the 50 million hour mark next week, as we saw with Squid Game. Speaking of Squid Game, its 37.6 million hours, while a decline from last week, is still good for the 6th highest week this year and 16th highest ever.
That’s all really good. And it’s rare for Netflix to have one big show, let alone two, let alone three. With three series over the 20 million hour mark, how good is that historically?
Sounds like a rabbit hole for me to leap down. I sorted my data set by any series which netted over 20 million hours, including both “acquired” and “original” series. Here’s the results:
(Caveat, I added Sabrina The Teenage Witch and On My Block total hours viewed to two weeks even though they weren’t over 20 million hours to make the totals more apples-to-apples.)
Context! By this metric this is Netflix’s third best week since March of 2020. Other than that, it’s pretty clear that it’s fairly rare for for Netflix to have three series over 20 million hours viewed: it’s only happened 8 times. (For the week of 23-Nov, mind you, The Mandalorian isn’t a Netflix title.) The other takeaway is that the start of the pandemic led to an insane increase in viewership that likely won’t be matched for a few years.
If we include other streamers and films, then we’ve had ten weeks where three or more films and TV series each had over 20 million hours viewed:
I sort of love this view, because it really shows you the periods when Netflix hasn’t had a hit, and this is a hits-driven business. Meaning that your hits do multiples better than everything else.
It also shows you how far the other streamers need to go to catch up—with the caveat that weekly released series don’t do as well in weekly totals:
It’s not a coincidence that Netflix and Disney both had strong earnings quarters last year in Q4 when they had good content. And both had lackluster subscriber adds after generally weak Q3 content. (Netflix had Squid Game pack right at the end of the quarter.)
Good content = good subscriber numbers.
Quick Notes on TV
– After the top three originals on the TV list, we have a big boost for Showtime’s Shameless, which dropped new episodes from season 11 on 11-Oct. Shameless has made the Nielsen ratings a total of 14 times, and this is their first return to the list since July of this year, and previously December of 2020.
– Actually, those aren’t the only new “acquired” TV series on the list. Netflix added new seasons six and seven of Hallmark’s Good Witch on 30-Sep, and it’s been on the list since. Further, the season 8 of The Blacklist dropped on Netflix on 6-Oct and it too has returned to the acquired TV list. (If you remember, Netflix pays Sony $2 million per episode for The Blacklist, which is probably partly a reason it’s still on TV.)
– Speaking of Netflix’s run of content, their supernatural horror title Midnight Mass has probably benefited from all the Squid Game attention. It is currently at 48.2 million hours viewed through its first four weeks, good for 15th place in the rankings. Last year, The Haunting of Bly Manor did really well too, so these horror-themed horror TV series have worked for Netflix.
– In reality television, The Circle season 3 has officially run its course, having netted 24 million hours over its four week run which started on 8-Sep. Reality competition TV is probably worth its own deep dive, but I’ve been surprised at how soft the streaming reality shows are performing compared to the pandemic lock downs and broadcast ratings. But this could be cherry picking data so deserves a deeper dive.
– Dog Not Barking of the week: Disney+’s Among The Stars. Sure, this was just a documentary series under the NatGeo banner, but it really shows Disney’s struggles for any non-Marvel/Star Wars TV content. The runner up was Sexy Beasts, the crazy Netflix dating show where contestants where full prosthesis masks. It may have been buzzy—everyone dunked on the crazy looking people in the show—but folks likely tuned it out. where.
– Among the new releases that didn’t make the Nielsen rankings, I’m officially unofficially starting “Apple TV+ Watch 2021” where we guess which will be their second series to make the rankings:
Foundation season 1
Invasion season 1
The Morning Show season 2
All three of those shows have fairly generic names, making it hard to use Google Trends to predict which is doing well. My money is on The Morning Show, but Foundation could be a wildcard.
– Among the other streamers, Prime Video released a reboot of I Know What You Did Last Summer as a young adult TV series, Hulu released Dopesick, Paramount+ released Guilty Party with Kate Beckinsale, and Disney released Just Beyond, a scary series for kids. We’ll see if any show of them up next week.
I love to harp on mental heuristics that lead to bad decision-making. For example, when it came to foreign films, I was all about the “availability” heuristic. Folks thought, “Hey Squid Game did well. Therefore, foreign titles do well on Netflix!” But as I showed, there are hundreds of foreign titles released every year on the streamers…and most don’t do well. But since we don’t think of them, we downplay how often foreign series bomb in the U.S. That’s the availability heuristic at work.
But really there are two fallacies at work. Including another great example: survivorship bias.
Specifically, if you’re trying to draw conclusions from a sample set, you need to look at all examples, not just successful examples. The most famous example came in World War II. Some scientists wanted to figure out how to make the U.S. bomber planes more resilient. Since so many were shot down over Europe. So they studied the aircraft that came home, to see where they were shot the most. They tended to have the most bullet holes in the body of the aircraft. So the logic went, if we reinforce the bodies, planes will survive longer.
See, the scientists—technically “operations researchers”, the first of their kind—were only studying planes that survived. The reason the planes didn’t have bullet holes in the wings or engines was that planes that got shot in the engine or wings tended to crash. If you crash in the ocean, you don’t show back up at the air base to be studied.
Which brings me to horror films!
Released into both theaters and on Peacock, the latest installment in the Halloween franchise, Halloween Kills, did really well. It netted $50.4 million at the box office and Samba TV told us it added another 1.2 million viewers on home living room TVs. This version of Halloween was also rebooted by the maestro of low-budget horror, Jason Blum.
Now as I wrote last week, I think Blum is an entertainment strategy genius. Full stop. But does he also benefit from media coverage that misunderstands survivorship bias? Obviously.
When folks talk about Blum, they talk about his hit, Paranormal Activity, that on a budget of $15,000 made $193 million in U.S. box office, spawning an entire franchise. He later produced Get Out, a similar low budget to monster box office draw. I could add The Purge and Insidious and many more titles to this list.
But his IMDb credits are also filled with titles most folks have never heard of. Martyrs? The Gallows? Incarnate? And those are the films that got a theatrical release. Seriously, scan the Blumhouse titles at The Numbers and you see how many films he buried straight-to-video. Here’s his films from 2016 to 2018:
Or now can we say, “buried straight-to-streaming”? Seriously, by my count Blum released 6 horror films just in October, including four tiles for Prime Video, Halloween Kills and released a new Paranormal Activity on Paramount+. And last year Blum released another four titles on Prime Video. So far no “Welcome to Blumhouse” title has made a Nielsen rankings chart.
And he’s not the only one producing/making horror films. As I noted back in July, Netflix went all in on the three “Fear Street” trilogy films, none of which did very well in the rankings. In October, Netflix released No One Gets Out Alive, which ranked 97th out of 106 films in my data set, with 2.5 million hours viewed and released There’s Someone Inside the House, which netted 3.5 million hours in its first week, good for 88th all time.
In short, that’s a lot of horror films released! But since most of them die quick deaths—like two teenagers who just had sex in a horror film—we forget they exist.
As The Ankler has covered before, Blum actually makes quite a few titles for very cheap, and he’s ruthless in separating the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff, and he puts his marketing energies behind the hits. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have a good strategy. That is a good strategy! But I do think it leads some in the business astray. Something like, “Look, these small horror films do well, we should make more horror films!”
I’d be a little careful with that logic. I think there is a gold rush for streaming films right now, and the results won’t all be hits. Unfortunately, it’s a very, very crowded field. And even the top horror films routinely need big marketing budgets to justify their existence. So if you’re a streamer and want to make horror films, go for it. But don’t assume it will guarantee hits because it worked for Blumhouse.
Quick Notes on Film
– Black Widow had a soft second weekend, decaying 34% week-over-week. Since Black Widow as released on a Wednesday, it didn’t have the usual “binge release curve” we see with most big films. I’d expect it to keep decaying from here.
– Speaking of Disney+, they put five separate films on the Nielsen film chart, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Cruella, Moana and Black Widow. Is this a record for the king of kids content? Let me check.
No. Back in February, Disney put five films on the list, including Frozen, Frozen 2, Moana, Flora & Ulysses and Avengers: Endgame. In fact, in April and July, Disney also had five films on the list, usually some new titles and a combination of their strong kids animated library titles. Can Disney get to a week with six films on the list? I doubt it, but would be happily surprised otherwise.
– Netflix’s latest “new-to-Netflix-licensed” film is Going In Style, a star studded buddy comedy with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin directed by…Zach Braff from 2017. Welcome to the party.
– Among Netflix’s kids titles, the rebooted My Little Pony is holding onto its spot on the list. The question for me, which I need to explore further, is whether this is really a good enough performance to monetize. Especially since—unlike a Moana, Luca or even Raya—after MLP leaves the Nielsen ratings we’ll likely never see it again.
– Netflix’s biggest original film this week was The Forgotten Battle from the Netherlands, that debuted to 3.3 million hours, good for 90th place overall.
– The miss of the week is Muppets Haunted Mansion. It has an outside chance of picking up momentum on Halloween, but I doubt it gets there. As one reader pointed out, it’s short at only 49 minutes, so it will struggle in total hours viewed metric. (Especially if kids don’t rewatch because it is scary/doesn’t play.) And yes, I hesitated to write this because now The Muppets will be mad at me. It’s not my fault! I’m just telling you what the data tells me.
Here’s a fun fact from our friend Kasey Moore at Whats-On-Netflix: Netflix has 106 films on the schedule already for 2022 and beyond.
106 so far and it just keeps going 😅😪
— Kasey Moore (@kasey__moore) September 23, 2021
That’s a lot of films produced very quickly.
– As I mentioned when I first heard about it, Disney+ is going all in on today, November 12th as “Disney+ Day”. Cool, another fake holiday. Meanwhile, I think this is a strategic mistake. They’re releasing multiple new series and new-to-streaming films on the same day, when I think a better strategy is to space out the new content over the quarter. We’ll see if it works.
– The next season of Locke and Key premiered on 22-Oct, so we’ll get data for it next week. However, as the Netflix Top Ten data shows, it will probably underarm, only getting to fourth place in the Netflix-owned rankings.
– The big Netflix film coming up is Army of Thieves, a prequel to Army of the Dead. It seems well liked by fans of the first film, and since the two are related, with lots of call backs to each other, Army of the Dead returned to the Netflix top ten charts. We’ll see if it makes it onto the Nielsen list as well. (It will be close.)
– And DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNE data. (Say Dune like it’s one of those long gooooong sounds that Denis Villeneuve loves in his films.) We’ll look at the box office and Samba TV data next week and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have finally compiled all my Samba TV data points into one visual…
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