Oh Snap! Snapchat Exits the Streaming Wars…Because Their Shows Weren’t Popular

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What’s the old cliche? If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life?

Well, then I’m barely doing work here. I love writing these streaming ratings reports. There’s something about pulling together lots of data and finding insights that brings me joy. And if you had told high school “me” this, he’d have called you crazy.

Last week I had a blast running down eighteen different data sources to compare the two biggest shows of Q3, House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power. And thank you to everyone who shared or retweeted that epic article. But the streaming wars are more than just big budget genre shows as this week we had another couple dozen or so new releases vying for our attention. 

Today, I’ll cover the rest of the streaming ratings, but let’s start with one company that learned the hard way that becoming a contender in the Streaming Wars ain’t easy.   

(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 29th to September 4th.)


Check out this headline:

This news can hit you in one of two ways. First, you might be shocked, because you thought these shows were doing really well! Snap repeatedly told us they averaged millions of unique views for these Originals, elevating vague datecdotes to a rare art form and constantly claiming millions of people watch their channels. For example, in 2019 they said that over 29 million “unique viewers” watched Endless Summer on Snapchat.

On the other hand, you might ask, “Wait, Snapchat made originals?” If I walked down the street and asked a hundred people to name their favorite show on Snapchat, I have a feeling I’d find maybe zero to five people who even could name one.

(And this is subtly different than folks wondering who watches shows like Chicago Fire or Yellowstone. At least the folks asking that have heard of those shows. Most of America didn’t realize Snapchat even made originals!)

Unfortunately, we don’t have much non-Snapchat data to say if these originals were popular/a good investment or not. And folks who made that case with Snap’s data were clearly wrong. This is why I tend not to take entertainment companies’ data points at face value. (I’m generally skeptical of corporations or any powerful institution, as most people should be.) Instead, I use “datecdotes” to compare shows on a platform to each other. (If say one show had 10 million views, and the other 5 million views, I’d assume the former is twice as popular as the latter.)

But data would be cool, right? In this case, we have to use IMDb, and I’ll just drop this one example:

Endless Summer has 28 reviews on IMDb.

Not 28,000…28. The show #VanLife has 9. Two Sides has 15. Kappa Crypto has 20. The highest I could find, without searching all of them? The Dead Girls Detective Agency has 133 total reviews. Find your own if you want.

So 29 million unique views leads to…28 reviews? Only 1 million viewers per review. That’s horrible. And it means those “viewer” counts are horribly unreliable.

(For comparison, The Rings of Power had 20 million hours viewed in its first weekend, and that led to 200K IMDb reviews. Assuming 10 million unique viewers for The Rings of Power…it needed 50 viewers to get an IMDb review. See what I’m saying here about terrible numbers?)

I have five takeaways from this news:

– First, in absence of ratings, pay attention to what companies do, not what they say. Snapchat got out of the Originals game because it didn’t drive other business objectives. And that’s because their shows weren’t popular. (Despite the data they released saying otherwise.)

– Second, rely on third party metrics where possible to judge success. That’s what I try to do week-in and week-out.

– Third, beware of “originals that drive other business objectives”. Snapchat, YouTube Red, Facebook and some other companies have dialed their original content ambitions way back. In some cases, these were advertising-driven models, so maybe subscriptions make more sense than ads, but maybe if originals don’t work, we need proof they do. (Yes, I’m talking about Apple here. In this case, I’d worry that Apple is spending a lot for very little in return.)

– Fourth, Snap could have spent this money on originals way, way better on other business development opportunities. Like making TikTok or copying it faster/better. But they got seduced by the siren call of original content, and that cost them money they could have better spent elsewhere. (Can you say “opportunity cost”?)

– Fifth, the title “Endless Summer” is a ripoff of a universally-acclaimed surfing documentary. For shame.

Quick Notes on TV

Partner Track from Netflix missed the ranking this week, but avoided a “dog not barking” fate by making the charts this week with 6.9 million hours. (Not great for a Netflix hour-long drama.) I had hopes this may be a procedural—which would be smart for Netflix to make—but Twitter told me it was not. (So my “make more procedurals” theory lives another day.)

– Netflix had two other new releases make the charts this week, Devil in Ohio, a thriller about a cult starring Emily Deschanel. It debuted to a soft 11.9 million hours. And of course, a true crime docuseries, I Am A Killer, made the charts, where filmmakers glorify interview death row inmates. It’s technically a returning series, and it had a soft 9.3 million hours on a Tuesday release.

– Hulu released The Patient, and as I mentioned in my Hulu deep dive two issues back, it’s done well on TV Time.

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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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