This week had two of the weirder entrants in the “streaming” category. (As a reminder, “this week” means the week that started 28-March-2022, since Nielsen has a four-week delay before their streaming ratings come out.)
First, CNN+ came. And then went, thirty days later. They had a host of original shows, but I didn’t bother to collect data on them because that channel was way too small. And I’m glad I didn’t!
Second, Netflix continued its interactive push with a daily trivia game called Trivia Quest. I doubt any of the sources I use can track if it was popular, but if that changes, we’ll review it too. In terms of programming, I like this move by Netflix, experimenting with different types of programming.
The rest of the streamers, meanwhile, continued their push into big, buzzy shows, which meant a showdown between super heroes and super soldiers…
(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 March 28th to April 3rd.)
When I helped plan content at a streamer, I had a weird rule: I wouldn’t watch our TV shows.
Which sounds crazy given I had a huge amount of input into what shows we greenlit and renewed. Why wouldn’t I want to watch the stuff to, you know, see if it was any good?
Well, I didn’t want my personal feelings to get in the way. I had millions of data points compiled into hundreds of statistics at my disposal. (Actually, one time I counted over 4,000 numbers in one presentation.) Why would my opinion matter more than that data?
Indeed, I often saw the opposite happen. Fellow executives would watch a show, fall in love with it, then want it to get renewed, even if the audience didn’t like the show.
Can you see where I’m going with this? I watch/watched both Halo (it premiered on 24-March on Paramount+) and Moon Knight (premiered on 30-March on Disney+) and I really, really, really liked one (Moon Knight) and sort of hated the other (Halo). I deliver this Halo hate with despair in my heart: I’ve logged plenty of hours shooting grunts and saving the universe. But the love of the video game has not translated into a love of the show.
(My quick advice? Why not have Master Chief fight aliens—or honestly anything—in every episode? That’s something that Disney+/Chapek/Feige/Favreau/Filloni do in every episode of a Star Wars or MCU show.)
I put that out because I don’t want you to think I’m biased when I say that Moon Knight beat Halo.
To start, Halo’s parent streamer Paramount+ isn’t tracked by Nielsen, so we won’t get data for it. Moon Knight had an middling start for a Disney+ Original, netting 7.0 million hours in its opening week, which started on a Wednesday. (Also, quick kudos to Disney for quickly pivoting off the super-crowded Friday release day to Wednesdays.) That’s the 7th highest launch of a Disney+ title, out of 10 shows in our Nielsen data set.
We don’t have Samba TV data for Halo, only Moon Knight. It performed well compared to other Marvel series, with 1.8 million households in its first 5 days. Here’s how that compares to (some) other Marvel and streaming series with L+4 ratings:
Lacking any real data, Paramount+ did tell us that Halo is their “the service’s most-watched series premiere globally in its first 24 hours of release”. And in the article revealing that, I saw this tidbit that their Yellowstone prequel 1883 had previously gotten the “datecdote” treatment, with Paramount+ saying, “1883 is the most watched series premiere to date on Paramount+ and more than doubled the previous record.” Presumably, the previous big release was a Star Trek series, likely Picard. Also, Paramount+ had said that the week of 8-Nov was its “most successful” streaming week to date.
Add it up, and Paramount+ is on their way to deliver us a “Hulu-style” vague datecdote power ranking:
(By the way, if you’ve seen any other vague Paramount+, Prime Video, or Hulu datecdotes like this, send ‘em my way. I try to capture all I see or find, but I can’t read everything.)
Let’s turn to the metrics we can use to compare Halo and Moon Knight. The obvious data source is TV Time, and in that metric—which skews a bit “genre”—both shows have done well, but Moon Knight has done top of the charts well:
Onto IMDb. Moon Knight netted a 7.6 rating on 77K reviews, pretty comparable to other Marvel series. Halo has a 7.0 rating on 27K reviews, which feels notably lower, but not as terrible as I would have guessed. So of the two data points we can compare, I think you can see that Halo is lagging.
Here’s Google Trends, which is probably closer than it should be because “Halo” as a video game has a fairly high regular search pattern:
Let’s provide the usual caveats to the data because life is complicated. (If life had simple narratives, we wouldn’t need so many people analyzing it!) Halo did have a much harder job in front of it. Unlike Star Trek or 1883, Halo had to prove itself as a franchise in the TV world for the first time. With a long and troubled development history, this show had probably lowered expectations more than they built them up. Moon Knight, on the other hand, is the fifth or sixth (depending if you count What If…?) successful MCU TV series in a row. This further cements Kevin Feige as one of, if not just THE, top development executive in Hollywood. (If he asks for a $100 million salary, and I’m Disney, I’d pay it. Without blinking.)
Further, Paramount+ is just smaller than Disney+ in the U.S. right now, a factor that matters but I haven’t emphasized enough in these reports. As I last estimated, it’s about half the size of Disney+, and Disney+ is two-thirds the size of Netflix. Their reach will be smaller just by math.
With those two caveats out of the way—and while the battle was closer than I would have initially guessed—the data points to Moon Knight winning and holding on longer than Halo. Of course, I’d love to have Nielsen or Samba TV data to back this up, but I have to work with what I got.
Finally, I want to compliment Paramount+’s release strategy for Halo: They’ve gone all out on building out the “extras” of the show. Specifically, Paramount+ made a talk show to run after each episode debuts, like The Talking Dead on AMC back in the day. They also make “next week on…” trailers, a feature HBO perfected.
This is something Disney+ should really mimic. Disney+ doesn’t get many of those small details right. (And Netflix’s binge doesn’t allow for them to get these details right either!) In my mind, these little things—that often can’t be automated by programmers—help reinforce the quality of the brand. My guess is Disney is more focused on international expansion than delivering the single best user experience for streaming in America…and longer term I wonder if that hurts them.
Quick Notes on TV
– Netflix’s biggest new release of the week was Get Organized with The Home Edit released on Friday 1-April, a show that is in its second season (somehow). If that seems a pinch underwhelming for a second season, no disagreement here. It debuted to 4.0 million hours, which is pretty low, even for cheap reality.
That’s the 29th best season two out of 41 examples.
(Also a fun one where its Wikipedia page isn’t even updated to include season 2’s episodes. This is marketing 101, Netflix, to keep the Wiki pages accurate!)
– Meanwhile, welcome back Hulu’s The Dropout with 3.3 million hours after a three-week gap in making the Nielsen top ten lists, good for 88th place out of 124 season one shows in my data set. The Dropout has had a nice little run with its weekly release.
– Love Is Blind finally fell off the rating charts. That reality show has been quietly chugging along since its batched debut. In total it lasted 7 weeks on the Nielsen top ten, earning 94 million hours, good for 8th place out of 41 shows in my season two data set. Not bad at all. It also debuted to 940K households on Samba TV in its first week, so I think this series gained momentum with its weekly batches of episodes, another argument for Netflix to shift, if not to complete weekly for some series, to at least more batched releases.
– What about the top series, Bridgerton? In its second week, Bridgerton was watched for 53.4 million hours, compared to Ozark season 4’s 68.3 million hours. Again, I think Ozark might have more viewership, but trails in the “buzz” factor to Bridgerton.
– An update on one potential flop: Bel-Air on Peacock finally made the TV Time charts, for one week this week. This isn’t quite enough to call it not a dog-not-barking, but it still feels like a miss given the hype and energy Peacock put behind it.
– As for the rest of the returning series, Pieces of Her and The Last Kingdom continue to slide down the charts. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has also started dropping faster since it stopped releasing new episodes. (The last episodes released on 11-March.)
– In the licensed TV front, we got a sneak peek in how popular kids content is, when Nielsen released some data for Spongebob Squarepants on Thursday. It’s a non-exclusive title, on both Prime Video and Paramount+.
– It’s official that Pachinko on Apple TV+ is the “dog not barking” of the week. Based on the coverage, this show could be VERY expensive—Kim Masters on her podcast said it cost $100M—and unlike Apple’s Severance, it doesn’t seem to be catching on. It has a great IMDb score (8.5) but only 3.7K reviews, which is a tiny number of reviews, so we will keep it in mind as a “dog not barking” of 2022.
– Streaming TV was back to its busy self this week, which meant several candidates for “dog not barking” including The Girl From Plainville on Hulu, Slow Horses on Apple TV+, The Outlaws on Prime Video, and Julia on HBO Max.
If we were going to see Academy Award nominations and wins propel films to the top of the charts, presumably we would have seen the results the week of 28-March.
So did we?
Now I know the obvious counter. (Trust me, there are very few counter-arguments I haven’t heard around streaming video, if you feel like hitting me up on Twitter to “correct” me on something. Yes, I know Prime Video exists to sell socks. I still think their strategy is sub-optimal) The counter I hear whenever I point out that Oscar films don’t perform well is, “Well, even if they don’t watch the films, they benefit the service simply by existing with that label ‘Best Picture nominee’.”
Maybe, but at the end of the day folks subscribe to a service to watch the films. If they literally have never heard of an Oscar film—and never want to even pretend to watch it—that doesn’t help. Based on the TV Time data, we saw a pinch of a bump for the Oscar films, but it pales compared to theatrical blockbusters:
CODA is the big winner, though it only made the TV Time rankings for one week, which is good for 84th place out of 104 films that have ever made the TV Time film list. Meanwhile all the other contenders fell off the list either this week or next (including Dune, West Side Story, and King Richard). But really, the more indicting chart is this:
No Academy Award nominated films to be seen. And we’ve seen Apple TV+ films make the rankings before, like Finch last fall, which got 2.2 million hours viewed. This means that even with the Best Picture win and crazy prominent placement on Apple TV+, CODA couldn’t crack 2.3 million hours, which is what Cheaper By the Dozen got in its 3rd week of release.
Quick Notes on Film
– Netflix’s big film release was The Bubble on Friday 1-April directed by Judd Apatow. It has a 4.7 rating on 19K reviews on IMDb (that’s awful awful awful) and only got 4.7 million hours, tied for 87th place out of 155 first run streaming films. To quote Bill Simmons, are we sure he’s good (as a director)? Outside of the transcendent hits of Forty Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, his directorial outings have been “meh”.
– Netflix’s latest cheap crime doc is Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King which had 2.3 million hours viewed, good for 134th out of 155 films in my data set. (Again, this is a film that none of the Oscar films bested in the ratings…)
– Last week, I noted that The Adam Project’s third week of viewership seemed high, but Nielsen rechecked and said the data was correct. While it had a strong hold into its third week—likely because so few new films were released—it had a pretty big drop into its fourth week, down to 7.9 million hours.
– Also, what’s the deal with Sing 2? That’s a big number, but it isn’t available on Prime Video as far as I can tell. Instead, Sing 2 is still on EST/TVOD, meaning this may be a a sneak peek into how much viewing still goes on in “home entertainment”. Last week at CinemaCon, for example, Sony let go that Spider-Man 3: into the Profit-verse broke EST/TVOD records as well as blockbuster records.
– Lastly, I have my eye on Moonshot on HBO Max and Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood on Netflix as my DNBs this week.
Datecdote of the Week
Time for an “I called it”, something my researcher/editor wants me to do more of. A few weeks back, when Apple released season 2 of Jon Stewart’s new show, The Problem with Jon Stewart, I called it the “Dog Not Barking” of the week. I had to rely on my usual lack of data, since it didn’t make the news. Well, Bloomberg had a juicy tidbit in this write up of talk shows based on an internal leak:
Jon Stewart’s show is averaging 40K viewers per episode (according to Samba TV).
Yikes! You don’t need me to tell you that’s a low, low, low number.
As for the conclusion that most people spent the week of 18-April discussing—that talk shows don’t work on streaming—I’m not sold. Yet. In this case, I can’t disentangle the idea that “talk shows” as a genre don’t work from “these talk shows” didn’t work.
Is this a Netflix/Apple TV+ problem or a streaming or an “on-demand video” problem? I don’t know. Or maybe Apple TV+ is still too small to support most shows. Or the batched release of episodes hurt the first season. Or the two month break hurt the show’s continuity. Or “all of the above”.
Next week, The Ultimatum: Marry or Move On on Netflix will vie against Spanish TV show Elite also on Netflix and Woke on Hulu. (Based on past performance, Woke will really need to surprise me to make the list.) On the movie front, Prime Video’s All The Old Knives will vie against Netflix’s Metal Lords, from one half of the Game of Thrones creative team. (The D. Oh, they’re both Ds. The W then.)
Longer term, this month we’ll see the bombshell that is The Batman drop on HBO Max. It seems like just yesterday it came out in theaters. (It was only 48 days in fact from theatrical to streaming. That’s too short for my blood, but maybe we’ll see.)
In the long, long term, I’m fascinated by an inter-disney battle for box office ratings. This week at CinemaCon attendees got a sneak peek at the trailer for Avatar 2 (technically Avatar: The Way of Water). It releases in December, and in November Disney will release Black Panther 2 (technically Black Panther: Wakanda Forever). Who’s your money on for that one? I’d bet—without pulling any data yet—on BP2 to take the U.S., but A2 to take global.
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