Paramount+ (and ViacomCBS) Had Their Best Week Of the Streaming Wars

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This week I’m continuing a bit of an experiment, having split my usual streaming ratings report into two pieces, film and TV. Today we continue with TV. Since we received Nielsen data late, this report is about a week late. (Nielsen updated their data on Monday this week.)

For those wondering, I do plan to take the next two weeks off for the Christmas holidays. I’ll try to put out one more streaming ratings report next week before Christmas. I’ll keep collecting and analyzing the data, since we have a ton of fun streaming content storylines to monitor. On to the ratings!

(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 November 8th to November 14th.)


As most of you know, Nielsen doesn’t release hours viewed data for Paramount+, probably because they’re too small. Samba TV occasionally releases Paramount+ data points, but very rarely. Again, they’re too small. The other major source of data for this report, is Netflix’s self-reporting, and obviously they don’t report on Paramount+ either.

Thus, most weeks Paramount+ is mostly ignored by yours truly. Which is a bummer, because I think they (very quietly) just had their best week yet. But this requires truly some tea leaves reading/churning.

Let’s start with their low-key, but exciting streaming move. As I semi-ranted about last week, while the coverage of entertainment focuses on prestige shows, the American people tend to watch, well, stuff on CBS.

Stuff like SEAL Team.

Which moved to Paramount+ for its fifth season on Sunday 31-Oct. So is it a huge smash hit?

Insert Shrug Emoji. (A sign I’m on Twitter/texts too much.)

Some of my usual go-to tools for streaming just don’t work with this show. First, SEAL Team is a generic name, so Google Trends doesn’t really work for it. (Same for the show You, which was top of the Nielsen TV charts this week.) I went to IMDb, and for a show with five seasons it is “meh”, with a 7.7 on 21K reviews. Compare that to Locke and Key that has a 7.4 on 68K reviews or You with a 7.7 on 209K reviews. The caveat here? I’m not sure CBS viewers are avid IMDb raters.

So let’s dig a bit deeper. In the old fashioned metric of “Do people watch this on broadcast?” The answer is yes. Here’s the Wikipedia summary of the Nielsen ratings:

Is it bigger than football? No, but as Nielsen shows every month, broadcast TV is as big as streaming on its own. If ViacomCBS can convince a fraction of the 6 million folks to move to Paramount+ to keep watching, that’s win. Meanwhile, it’s not like this is their biggest show on their network, so they’re not sacrificing their declining (but sill very real) advertising dollars.

Note, linear ratings don’t tell us if the shift to Paramount+ worked. Again, neither will Google Trends, Samba TV or IMDb. So I’m going to turn to another source I’ve been monitoring, Whip Media’s TV Time rankings. They—along with Just Watch and Reelgood—run an app that helps customers pick TV and films to watch on streaming. They’ve been releasing a weekly ranking that I’ve been monitoring. (Though I haven’t finished the analysis comparing it to say Nielsen rankings yet. Right now, I’d say TV Time’s rankings are correlated with Nielsen, but I need to see how closely.)

In its first week fo release, SEAL team was 8th in their rankings, moved up to 4th (fourth!) and then 9th in its last week. Here’s the week starting 1-Nov:

It’s just one ranking system, but still that’s good news for Paramount+. A sign that this move might have worked. In a few weeks, we can use TV Time to see how well Star Trek: Discovery performed in its new season.

The other reason I’d say Paramount+ had a good week is because they released a lot. Even if I don’t have good ratings for Paramount+, Peacock, and HBO Max, I still track all their major releases. For all the faults of Paramount+/ViacomCBS, you can’t say they aren’t trying. Here’s the shows the released for the week starting 8-Nov:

Mayors of Kingstown (By Tyler Sheridan, the showrunner of uber popular Yellowstone, see below.)
The Game (A reboot of one of BET’s biggest shows.)
The Challenge: All Stars season 2 (Is this show huge? Probably not, but I’m a huge fan and Bill Simmons calls it the fifth professional sport, though this would be the “seniors tour” equivalent.)

Is this enough to catch Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max and Hulu? Maybe, especially Hulu and Prime Video, which have struggled to launch big shows. And as Paramount+ told us, on the heels of these shows, Clifford the Big Red Dog and SEAL Team they added 1 million subscribers:

So yeah that was a good week for Paramount+.

Quick Notes on TV

– Honestly, I’m a little miffed at Ted Lasso. I’m all set to analyze its run on Nielsen. But to do that, it needs to drop off the Nielsen list! Since Nielsen began releasing Apple TV+ data—and speaking of, I really doubt they’re that much larger than Paramount+, so release your data Paramount+—Ted Lasso has made the list for 8 weeks straight. That’s impressive.

Dopesick? What are you doing here? I had counted you out a few weeks back. Released on 13-Oct weekly, Dopesick is Hulu’s prestige drama of the moment and it earned 3.6 million hours in its fifth week of release. So small, but still good for Hulu.

Dexter is back with new episodes on Showtime on 7-Nov, and this prompted fans to catch up by watching episodes on Prime Video. (Dexter left Netflix for Prime Video in January of 2021.) This is one of the rare Prime Video acquired titles to make the list. In fact, it’s the first time its ever happened in my data set!

(Also, ViacomCBS, why licensed Dexter to Prime Video when it could help drive Paramount+ viewership? The goal is to license your bad stuff to Netflix, Peacock and Prime Video, not the good stuff.)

– Also joining Dexter on the acquired TV list is The Thundermans, a non-exclusive ViacomCBS title on both Netflix and Hulu. I’m less concerned this isn’t on Paramount+.

– Dog Not Barking of the Week: Dickinson on Apple TV+ still hasn’t made the list. Maybe it picks up momentum, but I’m skeptical. It has two full seasons to binge, so if it was gaining momentum I think we would have seen it.

– Biggest Dog Not Barking Candidate of the week: Everything on Disney+ Day that wasn’t a film. Despite the success, the decision to go all in on Disney+ Day still feels like a mistake. Did folks know a new season of The World According to Jeff Goldblum came out? Or did the deluge of content overwhelm it? We’ll probably never know.

– November is not slowing down with big new releases from all the streamers. (Unlike say October, where Netflix stayed busy and the others mostly didn’t have major new launches. Here are shows I’m tracking that missed the Nielsen ratings this week:

The Shrink Next Door [Apple TV+, released 12-Nov-21]
Gentefied season 2 [Netflix, 10-Nov-21]
In My Skin [Hulu, 8-Nov-21]
Southside [HBO Max, 11-Nov-21]

Datecdote of the Week 

Since we’re on a ViacomCBS bent this week, here is an anecdote of the old school variety. Yellowstone debuted on the Paramount Network—not, notably, Paramount+, they’re different—and smashed. It’s one of cable TV’s most popular shows. 

You may notice that “cable’s biggest show” isn’t the same thing as linear TV’s biggest show, since SEAL Team had past years with more unique viewers than Yellowstone. However, Yellowstone is doing the thing that “elite” series do, grow viewership season-over-season. So ViacomCBS has a clear hit on their hand, which is why they’ve let the showrunner develop one other show (Mayors of Kingstown) and a prequel (NAME NAME) for Paramount+.

(Yellowstone itself heads to Peacock, who bought the streaming rights, after its cable run. Unlike the SEAL Team move, the move to cash out on Yellowstone was a mistake for ViacomCBS.)

Coming Soon!

Again, things are picking up in November. The big releases to hit the Nielsen chart next will be Tiger King 2 from Netflix and The Wheel of Time from Amazon/Prime Video. Tiger King 2 based on the Netflix Top Ten data looks like it won’t replicate the success of season 1’s viral takeover. 

As for The Wheel of Time, I don’t know what to expect from it. Prime Video said it “did well”, but who knows what that actually means. As I said before, the cool thing now is with Nielsen’s data streamers can’t hide anymore. And if it’s a huge hit? Then that will just prove Jeff Bezos right.

Looking to December, the big show for streaming is the Sex and the City sequel series (minus Samantha/Kim Catrall) And Just Like That on HBO Max which came out last week. Over on Prime Video, The Expanse will launch its sixth and final season. As a huge fan of the books, I am rooting for this formerly Syfy show that got rescued by Prime Video, but based on the lackluster ratings last year—it missed the top ten list, this year it will make the Originals list—I think there is a reason Prime Video is ending this series.

(As always, sign up for my newsletter to get all my columns, streaming ratings reports, and articles in your inbox.)


The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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