If there’s anything critics love complaining about, it’s that there’s too many sequels. Well, guess what, I got “sequel-itis” too! This week, a follow-up to our blockbuster segment, “Foreign Film Failures”…
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(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 May 2nd to May 8th.)
Since I wrote about foreign films two months ago, the pace of international titles has continued unabated.
Just this week, of the 30 new releases on streaming, 12 were foreign language titles, with only one new English language film in the mix. That means the majority of streaming films are international.
The key question is, are they any good?
The streamers are still making a LOT of really, really, really bad foreign films, which we’ll get to, but I have to say, compared to last time, there are some much better performing foreign titles in this batch.
For example, last week, 365 Days: This Day (a Polish sequel to an erotic thriller, with tons of sex) made the Nielsen charts. (Though it fell off this week.) While popular, it has horrendously bad IMDb scores, likely due to the graphic content. But last week the South African film Silverton Siege also made the Nielsen charts with 2.0 million hours viewed. (It also fell off this week.) It has an okay 6.0 IMDb score on a low-ish 1,400 reviews.
Some other Netflix foreign films have decent IMDb scores too. For example, the anime title, Bubble—by the creators of Attack on Titan, if you know anime—has a 6.4 on 3.3K reviews on IMDb. (Side note: Netflix released both The Bubble, directed by Judd Apatow, and Bubble in the same month. Not good planning there…) The Indian film, Gangubai Kathiawadi—a theatrical title Netflix is distributing globally—has a 7 on IMDb with a 42K. The Getaway King, a Polish title, has a 6.6 on 1,400 reviews. See? Not as bad.
But you know where this is going right? Since I used the comments section last time to hit my point home, I’m going to pivot this time. Here are the three posters for actual titles on Netflix right now:
Do those films and/or TV shows inspire confidence? Not really. (One of those titles is a TV series, but I had to include it because just look at that poster! )
Their IMDb scores match the images. Rumspringa, a German film, has a 5.2 on 268 reviews. (And it’s a Netflix Original.) Honeymoon with My Mother has a 5.9 on 800 reviews. (It’s Spanish and also an Original.) Smother in Law—a TV series—has a 4.1 on only 100 reviews. But the lowest ranking is Netflix’s 1.8 for He’s Expecting—another TV show and Original—on 2,900 reviews. (It’s from Japan.) In all, I counted 18 film or TV series that had an IMDb score below a six released on Netflix since 21-April. And that’s the floor; I could have missed some titles.
Here’s the updated scatterplot. But this time I threw in possibly the top performing IMDb title of the year, Top Gun: Maverick.
As you’d expect, very few of these foreign language titles make the Nielsen rankings. The two titles that made the Nielsen rankings last week got knocked off by a handful of licensed library titles, two of which are more than 24 years old.
And now the other streamers are getting in on the action. This article has Prime Video humble-bragging about their plans for at least 40 Indian titles on top of all the other content they plan to make. HBO Max has been releasing foreign language titles all year, mostly Spanish language content. And here’s Disney’s CFO on the mind-boggling number of originals coming to Disney+/Hulu/Hotstar:
NEW: @Disney CFO Christine McCarthy provides for the first time breakdown of the ~500 local titles in the pipeline outside of U.S.:
— 140 APAC
— 150 EMEA
— 100 INDIA
— 200 LATAM
— Sara Fischer (@sarafischer) May 11, 2022
(While Disney didn’t intend this, the above content plan is actually an indictment on the theory that streaming “scales” globally. To achieve scale, usually you can expand for minimal additional investment. For example, once Google had YouTube, adding additional territories was relatively easy. In streaming’s case, the streamers need to invest heavily in local originals. That’s literally the opposite of “scale”.)
Streamers then will need to hit those crazy production numbers while keeping the quality high, a tough balance. Can the other streamers do better than Netflix? Well on 29-April Prime Video released I Love America globally—not available in the U.S.—and it currently has a 4.6 on IMDb on only 275 reviews. Disney+ has released two French series so far (Parallels and Week-end Family), and while they have okay IMDb scores, they have a pretty low number of reviews.
The thought running through my head is that this feels so…ahistorical. In the past, if a studio made a terrible film, they didn’t keep putting it in front of customers. They either cancelled its theatrical run or sent it to straight to video, where it likely died an anonymous death. You certainly didn’t sell it to a cable or premium channel, since they didn’t want it.
Netflix—and other streamers—don’t have that constraint. So whenever new titles show up on the service—even poorly rated foreign titles—they still end up on the “new to Netflix” bars. And invariably some people end up watching them. Not a lot, but some.
And having customers watch bad films isn’t smart under any programming strategy. Period. If the streamers have a host of bad, bad, very bad films, they should bury them. If they have to release them, hide them from the algorithms and “new releases” programming bars. Just pretend you never made it in the first place.
Quick Notes on Film
– On Nielsen’s charts, the theme of the week is “library titles”. For example, we noted two weeks back that the first Sonic The Hedgehog movie made an appearance on the Nielsen charts, but that it was on Paramount+ and Prime Video. Well, this week—reminder, the week starting 2-May—Sonic The Hedgehog (the first film), made it to second place on Netflix’s global charts too. Sonic 2 also showed up on the TV Time rankings too:
– That’s not all. Most film licensing deals become available on the first of the month. And since this week started just after the 1-May, we had an extra sized number of “new to Netflix” titles appear on the film list:
Six licensed titles! From studios including Warner Bros (U.S. Marshals), Lionsgate (Rambo: Last Blood), Paramount (Forrest Gump, War of the Worlds), and STX (Den of Thieves). They also go all the way back to 1994, 1998, and 2005, and a few newish titles (Den of Thieves is from 2018, Rambo is from 2019 and The Gentlemen is from 2020). And all had theatrical releases.
– Also, a few weeks back, Encanto finally regained its place as the most rewatched film on the block, passing Turning Red. Here’s a calendar of Encanto’s staying power on Disney+:
This doesn’t really say anything negative about Turning Red, more about the power of Encanto and its songs. While we’re on this topic, do you want to know the top films on streaming in total viewership since Encanto and Don’t Look Up came out on 24-Dec-2022? Fine, since you asked nicely:
– Other than those acquired titles, it was a bit quiet for big, straight-to-streaming films. Netflix had Along for the Ride, their latest teen rom-com, but it hasn’t done very well, with only 3K reviews on IMDb. (It made it on the TV Time Rankings for one week only, which is a below average performance for Netflix on TV Time.) A few years back, Netflix heavily touted its investment into teen rom-coms, and man, I wish we had data for those initial films from the “Summer of Love” in 2018! Netflix also picked up Marmaduke, a kids film with Pete Davidson’s voice acting, and it too missed the Nielsen rankings.
(Seriously, if you want a flashback to “proto-streaming ratings”, check out this series of articles from 2018 where I coined the term “datecdote” and compared Crazy Rich Asians to Netflix’s films.)
Now we reach the part of our program where we run out of data. Two “franchise” TV series caught my eye. On Paramount+, we have the latest series in Paramount’s quest to never NOT have Star Trek on air, with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debuting episodes weekly starting on 5-May. Meanwhile, Amazon shifted their longest running (I think) series Bosch to Amazon FreeVee. But hey, Prime Video is releasing it weekly! (Kind of, they dropped four episodes to start, then two per week after that.)
So who won?
Well, we don’t have Paramount+ data. (Say it with me, “Let Nielsen release your data Paramount!”) What we do have is IMDb scores, and Star Trek: New Worlds is sitting on a very good 8.1 with 10K reviews. Here’s the crazy thing, though, Bosch: Legacy has even better scores! It has an 8.7 on 8.2K reviews.
Here’s those shows compared to some other genre series.
As for TV Time, here’s the trends the last few weeks. Star Trek: SNW has made the list for three weeks, on the lowish end:
Bosch: Legacy is doing what Amazon presumably wanted it to do, which is bring people to Amazon’s ad-supported service. Now, there is some downside risk to this strategy. If you let people watch a show for free with Prime Video, then shift essentially the same show to an ad-supported service, some of the people may get upset at now having to watch ads for basically no customer facing reason.
And old retired dads aren’t happy about it. My dad has said that Bosch’s ads “suck” and constantly crash. (Does Amazon have “Customer Obsession” as a core value? Let me check. Oh hey, Jeff Bezos had it as number on his list! So Amazon is obsessed with customers…until they can sell more ads to them..)
I also have to keep pointing out this chart from Variety, which is basically the only comparison of usage I’ve seen for “FASTs”—free, ad-supported, streaming TV—out there. (If you know of more, please email me!) Amazon still lags competitors, but Bosch: Legacy could help.
Given the context of their delivery—and the fact that we didn’t get actual viewership from either Nielsen or Samba TV—let’s say they’re both winners for their platforms.
Quick Notes on TV
– Well, Ozark is huge. Still. Its second week performance (of its last batch of episodes) netted 55.5 million hours, the second biggest single week since the start of 2021. Notably, it trails its own performance from earlier this year, where it got 68.3 million hours.
– I have a lot of “favorite things” about writing this report, but one of them is when a series that previously lived in the “pre-streaming ratings era”—the time before March of 2020—comes back for another (Covid-19-delayed) season, like Russian Doll, from two weeks back, which dropped off the Nielsen rankings after only one week. Back in the halcyon days of 2019, cultural critics could call Russian Doll a “hit” because they liked it and lots of their social group talked about it on Twitter. Now we know better. (Well, those of us subscribed to this report. Can you imagine working in this town and not knowing this?)
The latest example of this is The Wilds, a Prime Video drama about a group of teenagers who crash land on a deserted island. It grabbed the last spot on the original charts this week with 4.4 million hours. It was binge-released, so that helped. Also, clearly the “A Team” at Amazon gets weekly releases (see Bosch: Legacy above) and the “B Team” gets binged. (Another fun tidbit for talent reps out there.) Still, it’s good for Amazon just to get a show on the list. It has a “fine-to-okay” 7.2 IMDb score on 18K reviews.
In other words, The Wilds is about as popular as Russian Doll, while premiering on a service that’s probably half as large in usage. Meanwhile, it’s about one-tenth as “buzzy”.
– As for everything else, Bridgerton is still hanging onto its place on the list. Better Call Saul, on the other hand, is fading. Bullsh*t the Game Show stayed smaller than I would have guessed (going from 5.9 million hours to 5.8 million) and Grace and Frankie had a small “binge release curve” bounce but is fading too (going from 11.7 million in week one to 14.7 million in week two. Meanwhile, Moon Knight grew its viewership again in its finale week, getting up to 11.9 million viewers.
– Last week had a few juicy titles to confirm as “Dogs Not Barking”, but I gotta give the overall price to The Offer. We don’t get Paramount+ data for Nielsen, but it never made the TV Time charts either. Given the star power, topic and promotional push, that’s a miss. And confirmation that meta-Hollywood shows aren’t as popular as people (including me!) would like them to be. Honorable mention goes to Under The Banner of Heaven, Hulu’s splashy show under their “FX on Hulu” banner.
– Among the shows this week, four stand out as huge “Dog Not Barking” candidates. First, Netflix’s The Pentaverate has already made the short list as DNB of the year. It got blanked out of everything, and only making Netflix’s weekly Top Ten charts from two days! HBO Max has The Staircase (starring Colin Firth)—HBO let Nielsen release your data!—Apple TV+ had Tehran, and Peacock has Girls5Eva, a super buzzy show with good reviews, but so little data on it.
Datecdote of the Week
HBO is in a bit of a nether region when it comes to this report. Obviously, they release all their content on HBO Max too. But a show like Winning Time is technically still an “HBO” show, so it won’t make it on Nielsen’s rankings, or TV Time’s streaming list. Sigh.
HBO emailed me that Winning Time continued to grow throughout its run, culminating in 1.6 million viewers for the finale on the night of. As HBO is fond to point out, over the run, episodes are “averaging 6 million viewers”. I wish I could provide better context for what that means compared to other finales, but I don’t have a full database for HBO. Hence why these are “datecdotes”. (And collecting all HBO’s data leaks over the years is on my “data roadmap” for later in the year.)
Next week—reminder it will be the covering the releases the week of 9-May-2022—the number of films released to streaming picks up. The Lost City debuts on Paramount+ and Firestarter (from Blumhouse) shows up in theaters and Peacock and HBO Max gets Old and Netflix has Senior Year. Finally, a meaty showdown for streaming movies!
Later this month, as I mentioned, Memorial Day weekend is huge, with Obi-Wan vs Stranger Things vs Top Gun: Maverick. The Top Gun IMDb numbers are astonishingly good. An 8.7 on 86K reviews and scounting. That’s a baller score. I didn’t put in Google Trends, so thought I’d update that:
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