[Folks, right off the bat, I need to let you know that we don’t have the full Nielsen data set for the week of 23-May. But not to fear, between TV Time, some early tidbits that Nielsen released on Twitter about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Stranger Things, Netflix global ratings, Samba TV, and IMDb scores, we still have a lot to cover. On Friday, if Nielsen has published a double update, we’ll catch up on two weeks of TV data.]
Hmmm, what should we talk about this week? (As a reminder, this report covers the shows and films released during the week of May 23rd, the week leading into Memorial Day weekend.) Oh yeah, there were these three titles…
Frankly, those three titles scared off any other major releases. (Don’t worry, in a few weeks, we have another deluge inbound, potentially the most TV/film releases on streaming in one week that I’ve seen all year.) And it’s not a surprise why, given that Stranger Things is a monster, as seen by its Google Trends dominance:
Even though this week’s report is two days late, it will be worth the wait, with additional dives into Sonic The Hedgehog 2, The Northman, Ambulance, The Circle, the share of TV Time data for the year to date and more.
(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, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Netflix Top Ten lists, Google Trends, Samba TV, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of May 23rd to May 29th.)
I’m a little late to the “Stranger Things vs Obi-Wan Kenobi” comparison game, since I like to wait until all the data is in before opining. (Though I did enjoy friends-of-the-website Kasey Moore and Brandon Katz’ early breakdowns at the data.)
One thing I do want to address, though, is the idea that Obi-Wan Kenobi—which released two episodes on 27-May—was EVER going to beat (or even equal) Stranger Things season four—which binge-released seven very long episodes on 27-May.
At least in the U.S., Stranger Things is basically the second most popular show of the last decade. The last time I wrote about Stranger Things over at Decider—way back in the halcyon days of 2019—I used Google Trends to make the comparison:
When it comes to big, buzzy, premium TV shows, either Game of Thrones or Stranger Things was the most popular show for the last decade. The odds were always very long that a freshman show like Obi-Wan Kenobi could come in and reach those same heights. Think of it like this: a big premiere for a new shows peaks more to the underlying IP and marketing efforts of a streamer, whereas a big season two premiere speaks to the quality of the series in general.
Thus, as I read a few comparisons of Stranger Things to Obi-Wan Kenobi, the implication was that Obi-Wan Kenobi might be a miss for Disney. But my counter-intuitive take—that only exists because I put all shows into context—is that Obi-Wan Kenobi might be Disney’s best season one launch yet.
Since these two shows were big and buzzy, we have the entire gamut of data points, from datecdotes to Nielsen hours of viewership to Samba TV households to you name it. We’ll start with Nielsen, since that’s what I waited for. (And as I remind you each week, I focus on the U.S. market since it has the most unique data sources, but I’ll mention some global datecdotes, since each company provided those.)
Even though Nielsen is late with their report from last week, they actually provided some sneak peeks of the data on Twitter. Specifically, they revealed that Stranger Things generated over 85.7 million hours in its opening weekend, and Obi-Wan Kenobi did 17.1 million hours. Then Nielsen went a pinch deeper and provided looks at the first episodes of each:
This data perfectly represents my hypothesis: Stranger Things had the biggest launch weekend of any series in my data set, and the third highest single week total ever, only trailing the Covid-inflated second weeks of Ozark and Tiger King back in March of 2020. Meanwhile Obi-Wan Kenobi is the biggest Disney+ debut to date, edging out Hawkeye’s 14.2 million hours, which was released on a Wednesday.
On to Samba TV. My database—having previously scoured the inter webs for every data point they have ever put out—currently consists of 263 different data points across different streaming, cable and broadcast TV shows.
Both these shows did VERY well by Samba TV’s measurements, with Stranger Things clocking 2.9 million households and Obi-Wan Kenobi getting 2.1 million households for their first episodes. For context, through four days of release, those are the top two households view ever released by Samba TV. In fact, those are the two highest households on record, except for Loki episode 1 through five days.
To re-hit my thesis, Stranger Things season 4 may have beat Obi-Wan Kenobi, but both are big, big hits. And it’s a toss up whether Loki or Obi-Wan Kenobi is bigger, since Loki had a larger L+4 number, but had one extra day to earn those viewers. These two shows are basically tied.
(Do you want me to be kind of crappy for a moment? I shouldn’t do it. Okay, I will. On the same email that Samba TV told me Obi-Wan Kenobi premiered to 2.1 million households in its opening, they told me that The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills season 12 debuted to…1.7 million households. So Disney+ is about the same viewing as basic cable? Okay.)
On to TV Time. As expected, both shows claimed the top spots:
Here’s the TV Time rankings for the last five weeks, showing how Stranger Things grabbed the top spot for three straight weeks, before Obi-Wan Kenobi and Prime Video’s The Boys passed it:
Now, it’s not “Apples-to-apples” to compare IMDb scores this early, plus Obi-Wan Kenobi had a bit of a campaign run against it. (Whenever a show is deliberately downvoted or upvoted for political reasons, I flag its IMDb score and ignore it.) Instead, I’d just point out how huge Stranger Things is:
Again, Stranger Things is at worst the second or third most popular TV show this decade. (The Big Bang Theory is probably in the conversation too, simply by being the top broadcast sitcom of the 2010s.) But hey, you want to see that? Here’s three more big shows of the 2010s added to that IMDb chart…
This brings us to the last category, what the companies themselves said. Stranger Things season four is currently Netflix’s biggest English language series through 28 days of release, though it well trails Squid Game at the same point. (I’ll update this data when Stranger Things has a full 28 days of release, which will happen by our next report.)
Disney got in on the “datecdote” game too. Kevin Feige leaked a few months back that Loki was their most watched Marvel series globally and then, when Obi-Wan Kenobi came out, Disney PR touted it as the “most-watched #DisneyPlus Original series premiere globally to date, based on hours streamed in an opening weekend.” So here’s an EntStrategyGuy patented “datecdotes” table for Disney+:
So let’s talk conclusions and implications for Disney and Netflix.