Well, I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday vacation. When you last heard from me, I’d analyzed the Nielsen viewership data for the week of 8-Nov-2021. (Along with all the other pieces of data I absorb each week.) That means we have a lot of streaming ratings to catch up. So here’s the plan:
– Today I’ll cover the end of the November, the weeks starting 15-Nov and 22-Nov, including a competitive Thanksgiving weekend.
– Later this week, I’ll cover the start of December, the weeks starting 29-Nov and 6-Dec, which was slightly calmer in terms of TV launches, but heavy on the Christmas/Holiday films.
– Then next week, we’ll finish of December, including the slew of films released right before Christmas.
And then we’ll be all caught up for the start of January 2021. If that sounds like a lot to cover, darn tootin’.
In other writing, if you want my first take on this content streaming wars of 2021, head over to The Ankler to read my latest. (Behind a paywall.) As The Ankler reported, I’ll be contributing a weekly column going forward. I’m thrilled to join this new venture as they launch one of the most exciting new products in entertainment trade journalism.
(Reminder: The streaming ratings report compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, Netflix datecdotes, Top Ten lists, TV Time, Google Trends and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of November 15th to November 28th.)
A turkey day tussle!
Specifically, three of the streamers fired off their big guns in the week leading up to or on Thanksgiving:
– Prime Video launched 3 episodes the expensive, Jeff Bezos requested The Wheel of Time on Friday 19-Nov.
– Netflix released the expensive adaption of famed anime show, Cowboy Bebop, on 19-Nov too.
– Disney+ launched 2 episodes of Hawkeye, their latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series the day before Thanksgiving.
– Prime Video launched the third season of Hanna on 24-Nov.
– Netflix also got in on the “day-before-Thanksgiving” plan, releasing the miniseries True Story, starring Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes.
– Not to be outdone, on Thanksgiving day, Disney+ launched the nine hour The Beatles: Get Back documentary.
Hey Jude, that’s a lot of content.
As always, the question is, “Who won?” And as always, it’s complicated. But I’d say that Prime Video had the single best series performance (The Wheel of Time) whereas Disney had the best combined performance (Hawkeye and The Beatles: Get Back). Here’s a chart of all the recent releases:
With The Wheel of Time, Prime Video has a legitimate hit on their hand. Globally, Amazon said it was their biggest hit of the year (not surprising) and their fifth biggest launch of all time (somewhat surprising). Since we know The Boys season 2 had 14.9 million viewers in its first weekend, presumably that means four other shows bested The Wheel of Time. (Maybe The Boys season 1, The Grand Tour, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jack Ryan or some other series.)
At 19.4 million hours in its first weekend, that’s a great number for a season one launch. Specifically, the 9th highest of the 99 season one launches in my data set. Considering that Netflix releases binge releases its series, and Prime Video (wisely in my opinion) is releasing this series weekly, scoring in the top ten in its first week is a big launch.
Long term, if I had to raise a concern, it would be its 7.3 on IMDb, the show is only “so-so” in terms of ratings. Especially for a fantasy series. (It has a whopping 71K reviews already, but that’s par for the course for superhero, sci-fi and fantasy series on IMDb.)
So why not give Prime Video the prize for best “streamer” in Thanksgiving? Well, Hanna’s third season disappointed with only 6.2 million hours in its Wednesday debut. That’s good for the 13th best season 3 launch in my data set, but out of only 19 entries. And unlike most weeks, I know the Nielsen ratings that are coming. So we know that Hanna will drop off the Top Ten list after this week. Not great.
But if you’re Prime Video, this is the first week where they had two Original series in the Nielsen Top Ten, and three TV series total. Not too bad. So they’re still happy with this performance.
If you’re Disney, after a drought of live-action original series for the last few months, they’re probably thrilled with their duo of Hawkeye and The Beatles: Get Back too. Hawkeye had the 17th highest season 1 debut in my data set, which again is impressive given that Disney only gave us two episodes. That’s a better debut than Loki, with the fairly big caveat that releasing on a Wednesday on Thanksgiving weekend is a HUGE head start. That said, it does look like the MCU series are gaining momentum, not losing it. Hawkeye will edge out The Wheel of Time next week and last for at least six weeks in the ratings charts.
As for the Get Back documentary, someone—fine, my boss at the Ankler, Richard Rushfield—asked me at the time if that doc was a true hit or simply a social media success. Now I’d say, “Both”. Clearly, it over-indexed on “the conversation”, but it also delivered the goods, with 8.4 million hours viewed.
That leaves Netflix. True Story did fine, though, getting 15.7 million hours over the holiday weekend for Netflix. Given that The Wheel of Time and Hawkeye did about the same with many fewer episodes, I’d call the series a solid double for Netflix (especially given the talent attached).
The other two launches for Netflix feel like true misses. Cowboy Bebop was a big, likely expensive adaptation, and it only netted 6.9 million hours in its debut, good for 46th place in all season 1 launches this year. Not great and hence, it’s already been cancelled. We also know it drops off the list in two weeks, which again isn’t great for Netflix series.
But nothing disappointed like this next show. Tiger King 2 released on Netflix on Wednesday 17-Nov to 11.4 million hours, then dropped to 8 million hours in its second week, and then fell off the ratings charts. That’s a big fall for a series I called the most popular show of 2020. Its sophomore outing utterly failed to resonate. It’s second week in 2020, for context, had 89 million hours. Over 11 times as much. The lesson, if we must take one, is that virality is a fickle mistress. (And that we were all super bored during the first Covid lockdowns.)
Quick Notes on TV
– As I hinted at last issue, I was waiting for Ted Lasso to drop off the list to put its run in context. Well, sure enough, it’s off the list. We don’t have time for a deep dive today, but I’ll try to write one in the future after we catch up with the December ratings.
– Netflix released the South Korean series Hellbound on 19-Nov, and it seemed to have an okay global response. A new Squid Game this is not; it earned 4.5 million hours viewed in its first week, then it dropped off the list. Remember, for every Squid Game, you’ll have quite a few Hellbounds. But that’s okay! That’s why TV is a “portfolio business”: the success of Squid Game will pay for quite a few bombs.
– This week, I’ve been incorporating TV Time’s weekly release of their top shows on streaming. (Their methodology is a bit opaque, but it’s derived from customers using their app to find where shows are streaming.) This is cool, since TV Time covers all streaming, meaning we will have a more reliable data source to judge shows on platforms like Peacock, Paramount+ or HBO Max, which don’t let Nielsen release their data.
For example, on 18-Nov, Paramount+ released season four of Star Trek: Discovery. (So technically part of our Thanksgiving show down.) Since we don’t know Nielsen ratings, we don’t know quite how well it did, but it has been a staple on the TV Time ratings, for six weeks for total score of 23, good for 7th overall going back to the start of November.
– “Dog Not Barking” of the Week: Arcane. As we mentioned before, the anime series Arcane is based on the wildly popular global video game, League of Legends. And while the series has done fine globally for Netflix, in the U.S. we can officially say it flopped, having never made the Nielsen top ten lists in its three weeks of releasing episodes three at a time. Even the non-Nielsen rankings aren’t great for Arcane, with it only appearing on the Netflix Top Ten list and the TV Time rankings for 2 weeks, respectively.
(And yes, combined with Cowboy Bebop, is this evidence that anime isn’t coming to devour the world? Yes, yes it is.)
– In addition to Arcane, a few other titles have the (in)distinction of missing the Nielsen ratings charts including Marvel’s Hit Monkey and The Great on Hulu, The Line from Apple TV+, The World According to Jeff Goldblum on Disney+ and F is For Family on Netflix. For non-Nielsen tracked services, Paramount+ had Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles, Peacock had a new season of Saved by the Bell and HBO Max had Gossip Girl as “dogs not barking”. A few of these seem like shows that the streamers needed to work. If I had to draw a lesson, it really is that “peak TV” means a lot of shows will fail to launch.
The big streaming release in the middle of November—besides Red Notice—was HBO Max’s King Richard, the second to last film in HBO Max’s forced march to insist on releasing everything in theaters and streaming simultaneously. Like The Beatles: Get Back, this one seemed to have some social media buzz, but as we’ve seen that doesn’t necessarily lead to huge ratings.
So how well did it do? Fine.
Samba TV has provided Deadline (and me) with the number of households who tuned in during each dual-release film’s opening weekend, and King Richard was near the end of the pack:
Looking at the TV Time data, King Richard ranked fourth in its first week and fifth in its second weekend, behind genre blockbusters like Red Notice, Shang-Chi and Jungle Cruise. And then it drops off after that. So most signs pointing to this film being an aggressively fine launch. For an Oscar contending title, though, that’s not a terrible outcome.
Quick Notes on Film
– Well, Red Notice held up great in the Nielsen ratings. It’s 28.5 million hours in its second week of release is the 20th highest single week total of the year and with 75.1 million hours viewed in its first three weeks it’s the highest film through three weeks, beating Luca (74.1 million hours) and Soul (58.9 million hours). This is a huge hit for Netflix. (But you probably already knew that.)
– Black Widow finally fell off the Nielsen charts after lasting for 6 weeks when it came to Disney+’s SVOD side of the house. It finished with 2.8 million hours in a row for its last three weeks before succumbing to Moana and Luca over Thanksgiving weekend.
– You’re probably wondering about all the Christmas films making the list. Me too! I’ll write about that in the next issue.
– Here’s a fun one. On 18-Nov, Peacock released a third Psych film called Psych 3: This is Gus. Normally, I’d call this a “dog not barking” and move on. But it made the tenth place spot for one week in the TV Time rankings. That’s about as low as you can get and not get labelled a flopl, but at least it’s something.
– So what is the “dog not barking” of the week? To keep their streak going, Prime Video released Burning, a documentary on the Australian wildfires. But documentaries are cheap. Instead, I’d look to the musical Tick, Tick…BOOM, from Lin Manuel Miranda released on Netflix 19-Nov. That’s pretty good creative auspices to miss the rankings entirely. And guess what? I’ll have more to say on this topic too in a future article.
Anecdata of the Week
To put all these streaming ratings in context, it’s worth noting that when broadcast TV does its thing, it still delivers. Take the run of big events on broadcast TV. Starting with Adele, you had 10.3 million viewers tune in for her show on the first day. The Macy’s Day Parade followed that up with 25.4 million viewers for its three hour telecast. And the biggest NFL game of Thanksgiving pulled in 37.8 million viewers, the best single regular season game since 1993.
In other words, in one day, broadcast delivered three shows that clearly would have topped the streaming ratings, which are mostly three day ratings. Broadcast may be dead, but it won’t lie down.
(It is dying, but not dead.)
As I said in the introduction, we still have a ton of data to parse. Next week, we’ll look into the coming deluge of Christmas and Holiday themed movies, from Home Alone and Elf to A Boy Called Christmas and A Castle for Christmas. Basically, Christmas films will replace a lot of Disney animated titles for December.
On the TV side, Netflix returns with Lost in Space, a show we haven’t had data for in the past, and the latest season of Money Heist. (Which continues to underwhelm in the U.S.) Hulu has PEN15—which I’m not optimistic for—and Prime Video will drop the last season of The Expanse—and I’m not optimistic for that either.
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