I know it’s April Fool’s Day today, but as much as I love this holiday, this newsletter is still serious-ish journalism, so I’m not going to make up anything. In my experience, bad statistics just get taken as fact more often than real, often boring truth. (You may have seen that quote “that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on”, that’s often misattributed to a famous American. A good rule of thumb: if someone tells you Mark Twain said a quote, half the time he didn’t.)
So lets give you some boring old truth!
(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, TV Time trend data, Netflix datecdotes and hours viewed data, Netflix 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 February 28th to March 6th.)
The joke is that instead of calling it “Paramount+” and leaning into the mountain of content analogy, the company formerly known as ViacomCBS (and now Paramount Global) should have called it Star Trek+. There’s just so much Star Trek on that streamer!
The latest iteration is Star Trek: Picard, which debuted season two on 3-March. Like the previous Star Trek series Star Trek: Discovery, it is released weekly. So how is it doing? Yeah, you know the answer: Nielsen doesn’t release Paramount viewership, so the best source of data is missing. Oh well, on to other sources.
Starting with the TV Time data, you can see that while Paramount+ shows can’t reach the heights of Disney+, Prime Video or (especially) Netflix series, the Star Trek series get their numbers:
How do these rank overall? We’ll have to see, but right now Picard has three weeks on the charts for a score (score being the opposite of the weekly rank, so a one gets 10 points, a second place gets 9 points and so on) of 13, good for 38th out of 82 TV series in the data set. Star Trek: Discovery, however, made the list for ten weeks with a score of 40, good for 13th in the data set.
You might think—looking at that chart—and I would agree, that TV Time skews a pinch towards genre shows in its rankings. Probably. My guess is TV Time users are younger and more “cord cutter-y” than average viewers. That could skew genre. Especially considering that, looking at the Google Trends, its hard to see either Star Trek series generating lots of interest:
I tossed in Halo in that chart because it’s also on Paramount+. (And it is interesting that the new video game release in December is much bigger than the Paramount+ series release.) As for IMDb scores, the Star Trek series are in the dreaded “average” zone, with Picard having an 7.5 on 59K reviews and Discovery with 7.1 on 116K reviews. Compare those to other “genre” series and you see that gap.
Let’s wait a few weeks to make a final, final call, but I’d call these shows both “fine”. They do well for Paramount+—only 1883, the Yellowstone spinoff, has maybe done better—but haven’t broken through the way top genre series do on the other big three streamers (The Witcher, The Boys or Marvel/Star Wars).
Quick Notes on TV
– Hulu finally made it back onto the weekly Nielsen ratings charts. So far, in 2022, they’ve only had Pam & Tommy earn a spot in the ratings. Interestingly, The Dropout—based on an ABC News podcast of the same name (synergy!)—about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes debuted on 3-Mar and netted 4.2 million hours. That’s pretty close to Pam & Tommy’s 5.2 million hours and both had similar releases (three episodes to start, then weekly.) Of the 118 season one debuts in my data set, 4.2 million hours is good for the 71st place overall. Among “weekly” releases only, that’s still 10th place out of 14. And out of Hulu series, that’s fifth place out of the seven series in the data set. (And yeah, if you think seven feels low for a major streamer, it is.)
– The big scripted Netflix release of the week is Pieces of Her starring Toni Collette. It debuted to 12.5 million hours with a Friday release, and that’s basically what I’m calling the “fine” Netflix release range. (Anything between 10 to 15 million hours. I’m working on quantifying this.) It’s not a great release—ranked 26th out of 118—but isn’t a miss either. Whether or not it’s a hit depends on the next few weeks of viewing, and given its IMDb score (6.4 on 14K reviews) and TV Time tracking (only one week) I’d say it tapers off after getting a “binge release bounce” next week.
– HBO Max presents us with our usual perplexing challenge, without ratings, can we figure out if this show is a hit or not? (Say it with me regular readers, “HBO let Nielsen release your data!!!) This week’s challenge? Our Flag Means Death, from executive producer Taika Waititi which debuted on 3-March.
Using TV Time’s data, it made the rankings for two weeks totaling seven “points”. That’s good for 51st among the 82 TV series to chart on TV Time. Pam & Tommy, for example made the list for three weeks and also got seven points. Since Pam & Tommy only showed up on Nielsen once, that would be my bet for the likely viewership for this series as well. Toss in a good IMDb score of 7.9, but only 7.8K reviews and let’s say this show isn’t very popular, but also not a “dog not barking”. Call it “average to fine”.
– Remember last week when I wondered aloud what would be the next true crime series to do well in the Netflix ratings? Well, the wait is over! With Worst Roommate Ever—a true crime docu-series on con artists—we have our answer. At 17.2 million hours on only 5 episodes, it smashed it in the ratings. (It did have a Tuesday release, so it should see a decline in ratings next week.) Still that’s the 12th biggest season one launch to date. Further, both Worst Roommate Ever and Catching Killers have fewer episodes than a lot of Netflix titles and frankly are about as cheap to make as they come.
– In follow ups, Love Is Blind had strong ratings into its third week, though Inventing Anna is really the giant. Vikings: Valhalla had a binge release bump, but pretty soft and like Pieces of Her in the U.S.—globally may be a different story—I’d call it a “good” but not great series.
– Moreover, looking at the above chart, you can really see how quickly the monsters of January fall off. Looking at the TV Time data, Ozark, Reacher and Peacemaker have all already left the TV Time lists by the end of February. I’d guess Reacher and maybe Ozark fall off the Nielsen charts next week too.
– The Dog Not Barking of the Week is The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. Most kids shows—not named Bluey or CoComelon—don’t make the Nielsen charts, but also they don’t usually get the marketing push this one got.
– A few other big titles failed to make the Nielsen or TV Time charts this week:
– Prime Video expanded its The Boys universe with the aptly named The Boys Presents: Diabolical. As an animated show, it’s not a huge surprise that it missed the rankings in its first week.
– Apple TV+ still has problems with Jon Stewart’s The Problem with Jon Stewart. It moved to a weekly format with new episodes on Thursdays. The silence around this show, frankly, feels deafening.
– On Netflix, the kids-show-that-secretly-hopes-to-appeal-to-fanboys He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had a new season. The first season had some controversy, so we’ll see if the next round can draw in fans, but it’s a kids show so likely won’t make the ratings.
– Peacock also pushed Joe vs Carole really hard, but that show looks to be experiencing the same “Oh we got enough Tiger King after the first season” fatigue as Tiger King season two.
Library titles—meaning films that debuted more than two years ago—continue to dominate the film charts. Here’s the Top Ten film, with the Dreamworks films highlighted:
What’s going on? Well, Shrek, Shrek 2, Just Like Heaven and Battleship (2014) all showed up on Netflix on March 1st 2020. Like Warner Bros films earlier in the year, most film studios still have library deals with Netflix to put some of their films on that streamer for a nice little pay day. Universal just expanded their deal with Netflix, as mentioned when they gave Netflix Pay-1 film rights for new Dreamworks films.
However, like the other Illumination films that we wrote about earlier (Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2), these films will bounce around. For example, the two Shrek films will show up Hulu in April! So they’ll be on both platforms.
I do think this has some implications for Disney, of all streamers. When Disney+ first launched, I half wondered if they’d call it “the Vault”—because they used to move films back to “the vault”—and frankly that name sounds better than Disney+. However, I still wonder if Disney+ would benefit from rotating films on and off the platform. On the one hand, being able to say, “Every Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and Disney Animated film is here” is a huge brand win.
On the other hand, as Netflix shows almost every week, when new movies come back on a streaming service, it gives customers an excuse to watch them again, as the Despicable Me’s and Shrek films showed. Frankly, both strategies have their advantages and drawbacks.
Quick Notes on Film
– Let me take the “L” on my hopes that West Side Story would have a rebound on streaming that differed from its theatrical performance. Given that is skewed older, and the older folks were most likely to stay home from theaters in December, I wondered if it would have a second life on its dual Disney+/HBO/HBO Max release on 2-March. It did not, only getting 5.2 million in its Wednesday opening week launch, good for 9th place among the 20 “Pay 1” films in my data set. If it had been a streaming only title, it would have been 76th out of 145 films. So not great.
That said, it saw an “Oscar bump” as did Dune and Don’t Look Up last weekend:
– Compare West Side Story to Netflix’s two releases of the week, Against the Ice—an Danish survival thriller (in English) with Jamie Lannister/Nikolaj Coster-Waldau—and The Weekend Away—a thriller set in Croatia with Leighton Meester—which earned 3.2 million and 5.8 million respectively. In Disney’s favor, their service is roughly 60% the size of Netflix, so a higher percentage of folks watched on Disney+. On the other hand, West Side Story probably cost more than these two put together.
There is always the temptation to draw a a lot of conclusions about “theatrical vs streaming” release strategies based on the latest film releases—like say these three titles—but I’d say the simplest explanation is still likely the best: how well a film does in theaters is the best predictor for its performance on streaming. Moreover, poorly rated films—The Weekend Away has a 5.6 on 17K reviews, Against the Ice has a 6.5 on 15K reviews and West Side Story has a 7.3 on 62K reviews—just don’t scream “customers loved these titles”.
– Over at Hulu, they released Fresh, a comedy horror-thriller, that missed the Nielsen charts. Huh. It did well on the TV Time charts—anything that gets two weeks on TV Time is not a “Dog Not Barking” for me—and its interesting that it didn’t make TV Time until the week after its debut. So it may appear next week.
The week before, Hulu released No Exit, which is labeled as a “20th Century” film. I track things like how shows are branded—not something you can easily automate—and it’s interesting that No Exit has this new label. Fresh, meanwhile, had the “Searchlight” label and both were labeled Hulu Originals too. Meanwhile, the upcoming Deep Water is only a Hulu Original. All three of these films are in the thriller/horror realm. No Exit never made the Nielsen charts, but it did make it on TV Time for two weeks, though near the bottom of the charts.
– For the “dog not barking” this week, I’m going to pick on Peacock again. Sorry folks at NBC-Universal. Their miss this week is The 355, the spy action film that grossed $14.5 million in January.
For a movie that had a budget somewhere between 40 and 75 million (according to Wikipedia’s links), with big talent, this isn’t great. The IMDb score is middling too (an 5.3 on 19K reviews, though that could have been the result of a campaign against it), poor theatrical numbers and now only one week on the TV Time charts. So yeah, this was a bomb.
(Another interesting branding note? It was called “Only on Peacock”, since likely the initial contracts couldn’t call it a Peacock Original or anything like that. I bet we see a lot more publicity echoing this.)
Next week will be a massive movie show down, as Turning Red squares off against The Adam Project. Pixar versus Ryan Reynolds. We know both do well (Disney said Turning Red had their highest global viewership in three days and The Adam Project is on Netflix’s top ten films list—but who wins in the U.S.? But that isn’t even the most interesting story. Amazon aired the 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards on their service. Those ratings are what I’m most interested in.
Later this month, we’ll see the results of the Oscars on viewing. Last year, as I noted here, the Academy Awards didn’t propel anything into the top ten, but that could change. Interestingly, the streamers were VERY quiet over the last week in launching new movies. The Academy Award show may be dead, but the streamers aren’t acting like it on the film side. On the TV side, we have new Bridgerton season. Man the end of March between Picard, Halo, Bridgerton and Moon Knight is crowded.
Lastly, we got a delicious new release date, as HBO Max decided to preempt Prime Video and launch their Game of Thrones prequel series in late August, two weeks before Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel. Looks like I have a deadline to get this big series finished. In other squaring off news, Disney+ pushed the Obi-wan series back two days to debut against Stranger Things’ next season. Some titanic battles are coming are way!
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