We Have HBO Max Ratings Data! Plus “Stranger Things”, “Obi-Wan” and “The Boys” Try to Win It All

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The “Streaming Ratings Report” took a break last week since we got Nielsen ratings data fairly late in the week, and Nielsen had delayed reporting data the week before. While I use multiple sources each week to compile this report, Nielsen data has two features that no other (public) data sources release (yet): 

It is consistent (30 data points each week like clock work) and it has magnitude (they release total viewing hours, not just a ranking). 

So last week I decided to hold this report for a week to get that coveted Nielsen data. That means we need to catch up on Nielsen data for the week of 23-May. (We published a “streaming ratings report” that week, though it had minimal Nielsen data.) Then we need to cover the two weeks of data for the weeks starting 30-May and 6-June. 

Here’s the plan: today we’ll focus on TV, with three big topics and a lot of quick hits. Monday or Tuesday next week we’ll cover the film side. 

And we’ll start with what is, for me, the most exciting news in “streaming ratings” so far in 2022!

(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 June 12th, due to their reporting delay last week.)

Television 1 – Welcome HBO Max to the Streaming Ratings Party!!!

Should I be happy Nielsen is now reporting HBO Max data, or sad that I can’t use HBO Max as a punching bag each week for not sharing their data?

Happy. Because we can still pick on Peacock and Paramount+ for not letting Nielsen release their data!

(Of the two, Paramount+, what are you waiting for? According to other measurement firms, your shows do well and Top Gun: Maverick could smash streaming ratings records. Meanwhile, everyone in town thinks you’re doing horribly. Prove them wrong!)

Starting the week of 30-May-2022, Nielsen officially started including HBO Max as part of their top ten lists. Currently we have six streamers that allow this, which I color code like this:

Now, just because Nielsen will release data for HBO Max series and films, that doesn’t mean we’ll get data for all HBO series. Nielsen categorizes TV shows based on where they first premiere. If a show premieres on HBO first, it won’t show up on the “streaming originals” list. Shows like Winning Time and Euphoria—if my understanding is correct—won’t qualify as HBO Max shows in this definition. Shows like The Flight Attendant, Peacemaker, Tokyo Vice, and Julia would. Got that?

Of course, right when Nielsen makes this change, HBO Max doesn’t have a big buzzy original competing for the top spot. Their biggest original released between 30-May and 12-June was That Damn Michael Che, not the type of show that dominates these rankings.

But who needs buzzy originals when HBO Max has this…

Here’s the last two “Acquired TV” Lists from Nielsen, color coded:

I mean, two licensed titles on the lists for two weeks in a row! And together they bumped Seinfeld from the acquired TV rankings.

Library titles—what I define as any show over three years old—are an unsexy, but vital, component of the streaming wars. If the original content brings you in, the library titles keep you there. (Yeah, a lot of common wisdom about the streaming wars is wrong, but that dichotomy is one hundred percent true in my personal experience.)

Back in 2019, as HBO Max, Peacock and Disney+ planned their entrées into the streaming wars, folks debated the impact of those streamers clawing back rights to shows like Friends or The Office would have on Netflix. Yours truly said it would be a big deal—here’s me noting that the top four shows accounted an estimated 6% of viewership on Netflix—while others said Netflix could easily replace the viewing. And that viewers may not flock to HBO Max just for Friends or go to Peacock just for The Office.

On the first point, arguably Netflix has replaced the hours of consumption that Friends provided. Netflix’s usage, according to Nielsen, has grown slightly over time. But would its share of streaming be even higher if it still had Friends and The Office? Would its churn be lower? So yeah, whether or not Netflix could replace these big licensed titles is still up for debate.

But apparently folks did go to HBO Max to watch Friends!

This is even more impressive considering that HBO Max—whether measured by usage or subscribers—is much smaller than Netflix. 

(Personally, I think Nielsen’s usage chart makes the most sense here. In terms of streaming, Netflix is about 6% of all TV usage. HBO Max is about 1%. In terms of subscribers, Netflix has about 65 million in the U.S. and HBO has about 48 million, but that includes linear subscribers too, many of which haven’t used HBO Max or don’t use it regularly.)

Still, this is only two weeks of ratings data. After we get a few more weeks, we can compare how these two mega-sitcoms compare to other shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, The Simpsons and more. Which will be even more fun!

Some other quick thoughts on the HBO Max news:

– This doesn’t mean that Friends and The Big Bang Theory haven’t been on the acquired chart for potentially months. They may have been, we just didn’t have that data.

The Big Bang Theory is huge. A fact the media sort of downplayed over the last ten years of coverage, because it was a “just” a broadcast show at a time when the streaming wars were the rage.

Friends is still huge too. Maybe the biggest sitcom since 1990. Sorry Seinfeld.

– The Simpsons on Disney+ hasn’t delivered nearly the same value as Friends for HBO Max. (Only reinforcing my point about animation more…)

– This month Criminal Minds leaves Netflix for Paramount+ exclusively. I can’t wait to analyze that at the end of July.

Television 2 – Stranger Things AND Obi-Wan Kenobi Keep Rolling, and The Boys Sustains Its Success

We’re only on our second topics, but I am somehow already running long. Damn, we have a lot of ratings to cover. Here’s the quick thesis on the three biggest shows since Memorial Day: 

Stranger Things is a juggernaut.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of Disney+’s best launches, but is fading.

The Boys season 3 is doing about as well as season 2.

And I have one chart for each show to show that success.

First, like Bill Simmons, I love to put shows into their own “tiers”. Well, Stranger Things didn’t just join the 40 million hour club, it created its own “100 million” hours club. Just insane. And another piece of evidence for the “logarithmic distributed returns” of entertainment. This is a hit-driven business and this is a hit.

(The rest of this post is for paid subscribers. If you want to see how well Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Boys performed, whether or not Ms. Marvel and The Orville flopped, the rest of the streaming TV’s debuts, and the “Dogs Not Barking” of the week, please subscribe.

If you’d like to read my articles on why you should subscribe, please click here.)

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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