The Calm Before the Genre Storm: Summer Doldrums Continue with “Never Have I Ever”, “Locke & Key”, and “Day Shift”

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This week is the calm before the genre storm. (And, luckily, an actual tropical storm isn’t making landfall tomorrow in LA, so that’s a win.) It’s the second week in a row with no series or films getting over 30 million hours viewed. Prime Video had a buzzy title with a smallish debut and two returning Netflix series didn’t really move the needle.

Maybe TV viewership is down during the summer? Who’d have guessed that? 

Oh, me, in a gigantic series over at The Ankler. 

In case you missed it, I’ve been writing all week for the Ankler, answering the question, “Who is the Average American TV Viewer?” along with other questions like, “How do Americans watch TV?” and “What do they like to watch?” Please check it out! It’s behind a paywall, but I’ll be referencing this series and the data I collected a lot in the future. 

(Some folks have asked if I could somehow bundle my newsletter with the Ankler, and right now, we don’t have a way to do that. And yes, to get all my writing, you do need two subscriptions, but The Ankler helps me pay the bills and provides great exposure, while remaining as fiercely independent as I am. So, if you can, please try to support both of us.)

(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 August 8th to August 14th.)

Television

Not to toot my own horn, but the reason this report exists is to differentiate between the hype certain series get and the reality of their performance. 

Take Never Have I Ever, a well-liked series (it has a 7.9 on IMDb with over 50K reviews) that has stellar reviews on Metacritic (an 81, or “universal acclaim”). Judging by the news coverage, you’d think this series is huge. I just listened to a “showrunner” draft on The Town podcast—Matt Belloni and Lucas Shaw were picking the best showrunners today and let’s be honest: I’m jealous I wasn’t invited draft with them!—and Mindy Kaling, who co-created Never Have I Ever, went fifth overall. That’s high! Just behind Shonda Rhimes, who has two of Netflix’s biggest debuts ever and some of the most popular shows on broadcast this century. 

Does Never Have I Ever deliver those types of numbers? Not really.

Of course, for a while, pre-streaming ratings era, we didn’t know this. The first season debuted in April of 2020, before I had started this report and before Nielsen released a top ten list for streaming series. And when Nielsen later provided me April data, it didn’t make the top ten list. And when it came out this week, with three seasons under its belt, it only earned 9.9 million hours total. That feels like a disappointment.

But it’s not alone! Netflix’s other big debut, Locke and Key, debuted its third season as well this week—reminder the week starting 8-August—and it only had 15.3 million hours on debut. 

Here’s how those two debuts compare to their past seasons, and some other big season 3 debuts:

While Locke and Key has never been a big sensation, it came from buzzy IP and it’s got the whole YA/horror show vibe, so it should have done better. Before I got the ratings this week, I wondered why Netflix would release two big series in the same week. One answer is that they have so much content that they have to. But another answer is that they didn’t think either of these series could anchor a week on their own, as The Sandman or Virgin River could.

Quick Notes on TV

– Prime Video’s A League of Their Own reboot also seemed buzzy—it got a lot of good coverage, in the media and among my family and friends, partially because of the IP—but that didn’t really translate to ratings, with only 5.4 million hours on debut. That’s low for an Amazon binge release. At a 7.1 on IMDb on 17K reviews it is just on the positive side of the review ledger, but probably not enough drive a rebound in viewership. (Unless the extra eyeballs tuning in to Thursday Night Football or The Rings of Power can give it a boost. Though I doubt the NFL audience overlaps much with this show.) It also had a two week run on TV Time, which is on the low end.

– Speaking of TV Time, Only Murders in the Building has had a fantastically strong run over the last few weeks, getting to the top spot twice. Combined with its very strong run in the Nielsen charts and this is almost officially Hulu’s biggest series. You can also see that the Disney shorts “I Am Groot” made it to the third place on the chart. Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, a reboot of the series, also had a good run and recently got renewed by HBO Max.

(As a reminder, and I’ll cover this next week, The House of the Dragon on HBO is NOT eligible for TV Time since it debuts on Pay TV first.)

– Meanwhile, the Netflix true crime releases keep coming. After The Most Hated Man On The Internet and D.B. Cooper Where Are You, this week features I Just Killed My Dad. This debut—10.9 million hours on a Tuesday release—are the type of shows that really show Netflix’s lead. I mean how much did this one cost compared to A League of Their Own?

– The last new debut this week was Instant Dream Home on Netflix, a Wednesday release that netted 5.4 million hours. It feels like we’ve had a lot of turnover on the ratings charts the last few weeks, with a lot of Netflix series lasting for one or two weeks then falling off, and I’d bet the same thing happens with this reality series.

– As for other recent releases, The Sandman got an okay-to-good bump to 23.1 million hours in its second week, while Stranger Things still got 18.7 million hours. What a huge show! Uncoupled, though, only lasted for one week in the rankings:

– On the acquired TV charts, a new batch of Bluey episodes catapulted that kids series into the top spot at 15.3 million hours, beating CoComelon. (Though CoComelon will catch back up in a week or two.) The other new release was Riverdale, whose season 6 netted 9.6 million hours. Its previous season made the charts for two weeks of 6.6 and 6.0 million hours, and I’d guess this season does about that well. (Overall, these CW series do a bit worse than I’d have guessed, but I think a lot of folks really do watch on broadcast or on Hulu catch up.) Meanwhile Game of Thrones on HBO Max got another 7.2 million hours.

 

– It’s official: the “Dog Not Barking” of the week is Reservation Dogs. Despite headlines like this

…I think “hit” is much too strong. A show can be critically acclaimed, culturally important and ground-breaking, and well-liked, but is it “popular” which is what a “hit” should mean? I don’t see it. I’ve heard good things and want to watch it, but I just don’t think many other folks share my opinion.

– In slightly good news for the streamers, I didn’t have any other DNB candidates for this week. Everything which should have charted did!

 

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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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