Instead of the usual weekly report, last week we gave you something much better: a run down of the winners and losers of 2021. In case you missed, I published a few pieces last week, including:
It made sense, timing-wise, since the streamers sort of took the first week of January off. For example, on Monday January 3rd, there were no new streaming shows or films. That’s rare. That hardly happens. Maybe the return of all the broadcast shows scared them off or maybe the streamers had fired their big guns in the end of December, what I call “the new sweeps”.
This week we’re back on the regular streaming beat, covering two weeks in one, the two weeks starting 3-January and 10-January. Let’s get 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 January 3rd to January 16th.)
Last year was the year when the streamers really went “all in” on genre series. (Genre meaning super-hero, sci-fi, horror or fantasy series. The stuff of comic books and pulp novels.) And while I’m simplifying a bit on the timeline, it all goes back to the success of Game of Thrones around the 2016 time frame. GoT wasn’t just big, it was big and getting bigger.
In response, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told his development executives to find him the next Game of Thrones.
This led to the wildly expensive Lord of the Rings spin-off series deal (As I’ve written about many times and whose trailer just dropped this week…) and to smaller deals, like the superhero series The Boys (from Sony) or buying the rights to The Wheel of Time, which debuted in November. Even though Jeff Bezos asked for the next GoT in 2017, it takes a while to make a TV series, and thus we’re only now really seeing the results. Plus Covid-19 delayed a few of these series.
And this isn’t just Amazon Prime/Video/Studios. 2021 was the year where Disney could finally release all of their Marvel series. In 2022, the pace will only accelerate, as Star Wars and Marvel series face off against the Lord of the Rings series and likely the Game of Thrones spinoff. Plus all the genre stuff Netflix keeps making, including Stranger Things season 4.
So do all these genre shows make sense? Given that two of the three big genre series of Q4—Hawkeye and The Wheel of Time—just left the Nielsen charts, let’s check in on weekly-released series of 2021.
Here’s the total viewership of the top 11 weekly-released series going back to 2020:
And here’s how that trended over time:
So what do we make of this? By most metrics, The Mandalorian is the most popular, though it did have two full seasons. But I mean, look at The Wheel of Time! It bested The Boys season 2.
Hawkeye, though, seems like the least popular Marvel series of 2021. (Which is a shame, because although Hawkeye sucks as an MCU character, this show certainly didn’t.) Though it only had six episodes, WandaVision only had 8, but they were short episodes and The Falcon and Winter Soldier only had six episodes as well. Loki is pretty clearly the top Marvel series, coming in second to The Mandalorian.
One last point. I think these weekly releases really work for Disney+ and Prime Video, but they’re in a lower tier than Netflix’s series. Here’s the season one releases of 2021 through seven weeks of release, which I put in last week’s article:
On the one hand, these weekly release compete very well with Netflix. On the other, when Netflix season ones hit—like Bridgerton, Squid Game or Tiger King—they’re at a different, much higher, multiple of viewership. The question, as we’ll keep monitoring for the foreseeable future, is whether Prime Video and Disney+ can start to catch up with Netflix. We’ll see.
Quick Notes on TV
– Let’s start the quick hits with a library title. Sadly, the world lost the uber talented Betty White—among other things a tremendous patron of the Los Angeles Zoo—and her death prompted folks to check out The Golden Girls on Hulu to the tune of 6.4 million hours viewed. This is the rare Hulu library/“acquired” title to make the Nielsen rankings.
– Both Queer Eye and Stay Close, heading into their 3rd weeks of release, and the usual binge release curves. I now think this shape, with a second week total hours peak of around 10-15 million hours is the “average” show for Netflix. Anything below it is a flop, and anything above is a hit or better.
– The Book of Boba Fett had weeks of 9.4 million in week 2 and 7.8 million in week 3. Through three weeks, that’s good for fifth place among season one releases, behind Loki, Falcon and Winter Soldier, The Wheel of Time and Hawkeye.
– The new horror series Archive 81 debuted to 5.5 million hours in its opening weekend. With a central mystery to solve, it just begs the question to me, why not release this one weekly? To drive weekly recaps? In my opinion, buzzy series (meaning their elite shows) or shows with competitions/mysteries deserve weekly releases, or at worst, batched episodes.
– Released on 10-Jan, season 3 of Undercover, a Netflix Original from Belgium, originally in Dutch/Flemish is about two investigators who, you guessed it, go undercover to bust a crime lord. Sure 4.6 million hours isn’t much, but how often do Belgian series make it anyways? The moral? Cop shows work on streaming…even from other countries.
– For series that don’t get the Nielsen treatment, I am now using TV Time’s data to gauge interest. Of note in the recent rankings, Mayor of Kingstown on Paramount+ just made the rankings, and it was released on 14-Nov-2021. Peacemaker debuted at the number three spot, an HBO Max show.
– Dog Not Barking (Flop) Of the Week: Reality influencer series. Between Netflix’s Hype House and Paramount+’s Awesomeness TV’s Next Influencer series, we have two pretty meh shows. Take Next Influencer, which is somehow in its X season, and only has 90 reviews on IMDb. Maybe influence some people to vote on that series?
– The biggest candidate for Dog Not Barking this week is After Life, starring Ricky Gervais. Way back in the day, a random Twitter account called it the “most watched British comedy series” in the world, a fact I never quite bought. Given that it missed the Nielsen rankings, never made the Netflix Top Ten in the U.S., and didn’t make the Netflix global top ten since, we can say this is likely a flop.
The moral is this is why you don’t listen to random Twitter accounts.
The big story in film is the big debut of Hotel Transylvania: Transformania. With 13.7 million hours, it’s the 3rd biggest title this week. Here’s how it stacks up to other kids films:
We could look at this in two ways. In the first, that’s pretty damn competitive with Netflix’s major animated outings isn’t it? It easily bested Vivo (8.2 million hours), The Mitchells vs The Machines (8.6 million hours) and Back to the Outback (which didn’t rank in its opening weekend). It also beat the Chinese-American animated co-productions like Extinct and Wish Dragon.
But…it doesn’t quite come close to Disney, does it? I mean the number one film this week is Encanto with double the viewership of Transformania, a feat it pulled off in its fourth week of release! So the Disney films like Luca, Soul, Encanto and even Raya and the Last Dragon are just in a tier by themselves.
As for Amazon Studios, I’m not sure what the lessons of 2021 are for them. They make a film by themselves? It barely rates. They buy The Tomorrow War, Hotel Transylvania, Borat 2 (they did that in 2020), Coming 2 America and Without Remorse, and it smashes their own records.
Draw your own conclusions from that…
Quick Notes on Film
– The Lost Daughter released on 31-Dec, and for awhile looked like it had a chance to get an Oscar nomination, but it didn’t. (Which is good, if you like popular films at the Oscars, as I wrote at The Ankler this week.) The Lost Daughter made the Nielsen ranks for two weeks, but only two weeks, getting 9.7 million hours, good for 69th all-time. Is that the worst ranking ever? No, but it’s not a popular film either.
– Also not getting a mention previously was Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. This special had a nice little run in the TV Time rankings:
Of course, we don’t have actual ratings for it since HBO Max—inexplicably at this point—doesn’t let Nielsen release their data in the top ten rankings, settling for vague datecdotes instead.
– Encanto and Don’t Look Up are diverging into their fourth weeks. Encanto had the same viewership from week three to four, going from 24.7 million hours to 24.8. It’s now officially the biggest film in the U.S. through four weeks of streaming release by total hours, at 109.1, beating Luca by 21 million hours. Don’t Look Up dropped to 7.3 million hours, and ended up third all-time with 80.4 million hours, behind Red Notice at 81 million. We’ll see if Don’t Look Up gets an “Oscar Nomination” bump.
By the way, I don’t think this means Encanto is “better” than Don’t Look Up, as I wrote in my year-end summary last week. Clearly kids films have different release curves—with insane rewatch in some cases—than films “for adults”.
– Red Notice and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are both clinging to the Nielsen ratings charts, with 2.4 and 2.7 million hours in this week of release. So who will last longer? According to TV Time, Shang-Chi should hold on for a pinch longer.
This ties directly to another question I tried to answer two weeks back at the The Ankler: is Red Notice more popular than Avengers: Endgame? I’d say that overall Marvel films have a longer life, and this TV Time data is another demonstration of that.
– Netflix released Brazen on 13-January, a Thursday. With the extra day of release, it got 8.9 million hours in its first week. And like I’ve asked before…is this good? We’ll see how it holds but it currently has a 4.0 on IMDb, and as far as I can tell it didn’t have a campaign online against it…it just isn’t very good. By the way, this isn’t Netflix’s first outing with poorly rated thrillers with C-list stars. Past examples include Deadly Illusions and Fatal Affair.
So yeah that’s the question: is it good to have a lot of people sample/watch a film like Brazen and come away thinking, “Man that was awful”? I don’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong and it honestly doesn’t matter.
(Or it does and some day it catches up with Netflix…)
– Dog Not Barking (Flop) of the Week: TBD. We’re skipping this category this week. The Eternals, the big budget superhero film that released on 12-Jan on Disney+, missed the Nielsen rankings. So did The Tender Bar, which has George Clooney in it. That didn’t feel right, so I asked Nielsen and they’re looking into it. Stay tuned.
This week, probably due to the overall light release schedule, a few licensed titles made the ratings charts. As I pulled the data, though, I noticed that a few were from Warner Bros, including…
– Dark Shadows, from 2012
– Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, from 2012
– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, from 2005
No offense, Warner Bros, but what are you doing? You’re still licensing films to Netflix? I get why Sony is doing this—content arms dealer and what not—but you, Warner Bros? I asked Netflix content expert Kasey Moore if he knew when Warner Bros signed this deal, after having searched myself, and he confirmed Warner Bros films have been going for a while. And then provided this tidbit from his Twitter feed:
There's a few I'm not sure I've got 100% right – Lionsgate *I think* distributes Paddington for example but either way, Sony and WB are licensing the most out to Netflix.https://t.co/cjWUmoErsT
— Kasey Moore (@kasey__moore) February 11, 2022
So yeah, Warner Bros took that Netflix money. He also pointed out that, in their defense, Warner Bros is trying to fix this:
Was a function of something done years ago when (what was then called) Time Warner did not have direct to consumer as a top priority. That has changed. As these licensing deals run out each month, you will see titles flowing to HBO Max. Gossip Girl this month for example.
— Jason Kilar (@jasonkilar) January 12, 2021
We’ll see how long that takes.
Anecdata of the Week
Emily Horgan is back with her regular analysis of the “kid battlefield” in the streaming wars over at Whats-On-Netflix. This chart stuck out to me, as it shows that the decay of shows on streaming has a seemingly standard look you could set your watch to.
Next week, we get data for Ozark. Interestingly, as you can see in the Top 30 charts below, fans of the series started catching up early, as it netted 5.0 and 5.4 million hours in each of the last two weeks. Ozark did HUGE numbers during the pandemic lock down, so I can’t wait to see how it does in “normal” times.
In addition to Ozark, How I Met Your Father will debut for Hulu and we’ll get numbers on Netflix’s latest rom-com, The Royal Treatment.
Looking longer out, I can’t wait for two debuts for Hulu and and Prime Video, Pam and Tommy and Reacher. The former is a classic prestige play that feels like it could be buzzy. Reacher, on the other hand, delivers what I think is Prime Video’s wheel house: a genre show about a cop/lawyer/spy who solves crimes/tries cases/saves the world. Oh, and this week we have the Super Bowl leading into Bel-Air, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot.
Lastly, as I researched today’s article, this headline hit me:
Wow! That was an expensive series to make at the time. Was it worth it for seven years of viewership? Probably. But it still has to hurt to let it leave.
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