While we all know about “holiday creep”—holiday retailers start putting up Christmas decorations in September and pumpkin spice comes out in August—I don’t think we talk as much about “Big Halloween”. Compared to, say, the 1990s, it feels like Halloween, as a holiday, moves a lot more product than it used to.
What was an excuse for kids to dress up one night a year to get some candy is now a major driver of live events. There’s pumpkin patches everywhere and they all have rides and petting zoos and bounce houses. (Believe me, we’re a pumpkin patch family.) There are “scare fests” at every major theme park. I mean, when this is an actual thing, yeah Big Halloween is here:
And the streamers are (rightly) getting in on the action too!
Presumably, the streaming revolution should offer a huge value add for consumers. Instead of being at the mercy of whatever broadcast and cable channels decide to air the week before Halloween—or what movie people could pop in their DVD player!—customers can peruse dozens of horror and scary options on each streamer to find their favorite horror movie or watch classic Halloween episodes from their favorite shows.
Every half-intelligent streamer has a “Halloween” section to feed this want.
This provides a fun excuse to take a step back and re-look at the streamers/streaming wars, through the lens of Halloween, using it as a synecdoche of the larger streaming wars. Which streamers have managed to leverage their combination of Originals, library titles and UX to “win” the battle for Halloween?
This one little holiday can’t tell us who is winning the streaming wars, but it does reveal insights on each streamer’s strategy; these landing pages are emblematic of each streamer’s biggest strengths and, more relevantly, weaknesses.
Today, I’ll rank the streamers on three categories, pick a winner, and then I’ll do a quick run through of each streamer’s Halloween landing pages. I’ve moved the methodology to the end for those data sickos who want the details. So let’s dig in!
Who’s Winning the War for Halloween?
To figure out who is winning the battle for Halloween, I settled on three categories: library content, Originals and UX. I’m also just looking at the eight major streamers (Netflix, Disney+/Hulu, HBO Max, Prime Video, Peacock, Paramount+ and Apple TV+.) Shudder was the biggest omission, but that’s an entire streamer dedicated to horror/halloween so we should assume they’ll do fine! (They’re also tiny, with something like 1-2 million subscribers.) I also ignored the FASTs (PlutoTV, Tubi, Amazon Freevee, and so on) and pay cable channels (Showtime, Starz), even though they have a ton of very popular library titles on their various platforms.
In most articles on the streaming wars, you’d start with Originals, but when it comes to a specific genre of film, like “horror” or, more mildly, “scary”, this doesn’t make as much sense. My assumption is that Halloween is like Christmas: people want to watch films they’ve seen before, then they may try out some new stuff.
Honestly, the role of library content shouldn’t be too surprising. Studios have been pumping out scary movies since Frankenstein and Nosferatu, up to the present with Get Out, It and Us. To think the streamers can can produce classic horror/Halloween films in under a decade that stand up to those legacy films is just wishful thinking.
I ranked the libraries by three different, somewhat overlapping criteria. (I’ve included my methodology on collecting library titles at the end.) First up, here’s top 100 films, ranked by U.S. domestic box office, unadjusted for inflation, as defined by The-Numbers.
For a slightly different look, here’s worldwide box office, from Wikipedia, who uses a looser definition of “horror”, including some superhero and family films:
Finally, here’s a list by total number of IMDb votes, including both film and TV, to include direct-to-streaming films as well.
Then I averaged the rank in each category. HBO Max came out on top, followed by “linear TV” of all things. After that, the legacy studios like Peacock and Paramount+ did very well too.
One way a streamer could provide unique value for a customer is by offering a set of original shows and films—meaning usually first run and exclusive—for its customers. Of course, it’s a good time to remind folks of the purpose of a streamer. Pick one:
A streamer exists to…
Option 1: Deliver content to customers that they want to watch.
Option 2: To force their customers to watch their streaming Originals.
It’s obviously option 1! Now, if option 1 includes tons of original titles, that’s good! Your development team is doing a good job and you have a competitive advantage over your rival streamers.
But the way some of these streamers highlight and market their content, you’d think they only existed to push Originals. With Halloween, it only gets worse, as the streamers push their own horror Originals—some of which are objectively bad—at the expense of valuable library titles. (that their customers actually want to watch).
To rank the streamers, I looked at the performance of horror titles via Nielsen and TV Time. I also focused on sheer volume of horror Originals, which will benefit Netflix. Here’s Nielsen’s rankings for example:
Quick note: in my database, Stranger Things and Dahmer- Monster aren’t marked as horror, but then again, I didn’t see Stranger Things on Netflix’s Halloween landing page either and Dahmer- Monster is five categories lines down.
Here’s the look at streaming films:
Isn’t this just the streaming wars in a nutshell? Netflix way out in front, with Disney+ having the biggest film hit? (Keep this list in mind when we get to Netflix’s analysis later.)
Adding in TV Time and the total horror film production in my data set, here’s the ranking for Originals:
Of course, if customers can’t find your Halloween content, none of this matters, right?
Our main criteria, first and foremost, is whether the streamer decided to make a Halloween-themed landing page, which feels like a basic, easy-to-make value add for customers. Next, does it try to do anything new? Does it deliver for all customers–including family friendly recommendation, for example–and are they advertising this landing page on their front page?
Is this look quantitative? Absolutely not. It’s totally subjective, based on my opinion. And the results are…
Now Let’s Reveal the Winners
Now to the results, where I just weighted the categories and ranked them. Thinking about it, my gut is that library Halloween titles drive probably 80% of Halloween viewing, while Originals drive 20%, so I want to keep that four to one ratio. When we get Halloween Nielsen ratings in a few weeks, we may not see this exact ratio, but that’s because library viewing is spread out over dozens/hundreds of titles, while new Originals are concentrated. Since content is most of the battle, it gets 75% of the score, so I gave UX the remaining 25%. Here’s the weighted averages by streamer:
Rankings below the paywall break…
…Kidding! That’s my last Halloween trick this year. The treat is that this article is free for all readers. (Please, if you find this article useful, forward it to anyone in entertainment you think would want to read it. And thank you to all the paying subscribers who make deep dives like this possible.)
Here are the results:
There you go; the three “traditional” studios win with a combination of deep libraries and strong UX. Netflix is in the middle of the pack in terms of UX and library, but they’re the clear number one in Originals. Disney+, surprisingly, does well in both Originals and UX, though its library is hampered by being a family platform. And yeah Apple TV+ basically forfeited the content.
Ranking Each Streamer’s Halloween Landing Page
Looking at each streamer’s Halloween landing page for this article, I realized that each page basically represents each streamer really well, totally capturing their biggest strengths and weaknesses for each company. A microcosm of what they do well and what they need to do better.
Here’s a brief description in order from the best Halloween landing page and content to the worst.
House of Halloween – HBO Max
Well, HBO Max is the big winner. They’ve done just about everything right.
Really strong library? Check. They’ve got the strongest horror/Halloween/scary movie library of all the streamers. Unique landing page feature? Check. They’ve got this fun little tarot card option that surfaces a random movie based on that card. Classic TV show episodes? Check. They’ve got Rick & Morty, Friends (though this is buried a bit), Fringe, and others. Family friendly options? Check. They’ve got recommendations for Looney Tunes, Cartoon Network and family-friendly film titles.
Are they pushing HBO Max Originals over better-loved titles? Nope. But they do have Barbarian—a surprise hit from last month—so they wisely promoted that film too. If anything, they should probably push more of their great library titles, but there’s so many, it’d be hard to surface all of them.
My only quibbles? The “Costume Ideas” section is a bit silly and not really what viewers come to this page expecting. But at least they tried something!
This is HBO Max in a nutshell: an incredible library with a mostly still-to-be-seen Originals section. But that didn’t really hurt them. This is why they are, by my count, the second place streamer and they don’t even need HBO Max Originals.
Halloween – Peacock
Peacock has a lot of very strong library titles, both TV and film, so many that it’s almost hard to showcase them all. Right at the top, they’re promoting big budget hits/recent releases (Halloween Ends, Beast, The Black Phone) with Peacock exclusives (Mid-Century and One of Us is Lying), but these are the only Peacock Originals that they’re promoting, so it’s not too egregious. (As we’ll see later with two other streamers…)
I like the UX a lot. They’ve included a section on franchises (“Universal Monsters”, Childs Play, Saw, and, oddly, “Presented by Jamie Lee Curtis”). My favorite feature is letting users browse films by decade, which I just love. And they’ve got episodes from your favorite TV shows, like Modern Family and Parks & Recreation, organized by show, which is a useful way to get all of a TV show’s Halloween episodes in one place.
As far as I can tell, there’s not a specific name for this page, but they have a “Halloween” tab right up at the top of their homepage.
Overall, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock have great Halloween-themed landing pages to surface their strong library content. Of the three, though, Peacock probably has the best set of recent Originals and/or recent exclusives, between The Black Phone and the Halloween film franchise.
Peacock, as a service, has struggled to build its audience. I wouldn’t count them out yet, but they have a lot of work to do…
Peak Screaming – Paramount+
I’m pretty bullish on Paramount+ and their excellent Halloween landing page is an example of why. (And why I’m doing this exercise today.)
– They’re promoting this page right at the top of Paramount+.
– They’ve got their popular library titles (The Grudge, Candyman, The Ring, World War Z, A Quiet Place) right at the top, followed by slasher films, anchored by the Scream franchise.
– They also have Halloween-themed TV show episode, a must-have feature if you ask me.
– And other smart categories, like “Buried Gems”, “Chilling classics”, and more.
If I had to complain, they didn’t try anything new or clever (like Hulu, HBO Max, or Peacock), the family-friendly options are way too far down the page, and their TV show episodes don’t actually say what show these episodes are from. But these feel like minor quibbles.
Overall, this was a really solid effort. Like Peacock and HBO Max, Paramount+ understands that their library is a strength and plays to that.
Halloween – Disney+
For Disney+, I think their Halloween landing page is about as good as it gets…for Disney+ and their family-friendly content. Did you come looking for scares? Well, you’ve come to the wrong streamer.
But that’s not what Disney+ is meant for. Their big focus is, rightly, on Hocus Pocus 2, the MCU’s Werewolf by Night, The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney Channel shows/original films, and Disney cartoons, which makes sense. In terms of UX, Disney+ does a lot of things right. They’ve got classic TV show episodes, they’re advertising their Halloween page right on the front page, and more.
Even with the caveat that this is meant for families, though, this page still has issues. They’re promoting two foreign-language Original titles, Tierra Incognita and Parallels, both of which have abysmal IMDb scores. (5 ratings from 246 reviews and a 7 with 1.6K reviews respectively.) And the library content, after the big name titles, sort of falls off a cliff. (Which is basically Disney+’s biggest problem right now.)
I think Disney+ did the best with what they have. It’ll be interesting to see, in the future, if Disney+ becomes more “adult” and how that affects pages like this. But for now, this works for their customers.
Screams & Streams – Netflix
Netflix’s Halloween landing page is a bit of a mixed-bag and, at risk of sounding like cliched online critics, a bit too “algorithm-focused” in my opinion. Just scrolling it, I doubt that a human curated this page, but instead set up these lists and programmed a series of keywords, with a clear bias towards their Originals.
In terms of UX, Netflix wasn’t advertising this landing page on their front page (at least not for me), then even searching in the search bar, I could barely find it, typing out “screams”, finding “Screams & Streams”, but then I couldn’t click on it, so I had to go to categories, where it’s called “Halloween”.
Once you get there, things aren’t much better. The first section is “Teen Screams”, which is a really odd choice, and in that section, the second option, Fear Street: 1994, was a miss last year, with only ten hours in its first four weeks.
The next category is “Zombies, Vampires & Ghouls”, promoting popular TV shows like Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Midnight Mass, and The Haunting of Hill House, but also Resident Evil, their biggest bomb of the year so far. And Day Shift, a recent big budget film, is buried deep in this list. Still maybe switch this with “Teen Screams” to appeal to a broader audience?
Or…why not highlight your biggest titles right up top? Aren’t their three most popular horror titles like Day Shift, Hubie Halloween and Army of the Dead right at the top of this page? Same goes for Dahmer and Stranger Things?
Was this page curated by an actual person (or team of people) or was it algorithmically-generated to surface their best content? I can’t really tell. Either way, the choices seem really inconsistent and mostly push Netflix Originals, some of which I definitely wouldn’t push, since they weren’t popular.
Again, this is sort of Netflix in a nutshell: a ton of options for movies and TV shows, but many of them aren’t very good, but Netflix is pushing these titles at you regardless. They don’t have a deep library of content, yet and it’ll take time to build one. But if recent films like Day Shift and Resident Evil already aren’t resonating, how long will it take to build that library?
Huluween – Hulu
On the one hand, props to Hulu for putting in the time to make a landing page—clearly someone/someones put in a fair amount of time curating these options—using a good pun (which I like for the branding), then having a link to Huluween right on the front page. They also have a fun little feature where users can choose three levels of scary, a nifty little innovation that’s fun to see.
But that’s about it for what I like.
Hulu is like the reverse of Disney+; they’ve got a ton of great library content, but they’re pushing other stuff instead. Including the Huluween landing page! This awkward little Huluween bar on the front page is hard to see and I can’t tell you how many times this month I’ve tried to start continue watching my favorite shows and didn’t click all the way down and clicked on this instead.
The bigger issue is how hard they’re pushing their original titles, especially films, over other more popular films their viewers would rather watch.
Just look at the “Featured” section. Hulu is heavily pushing their Original titles, including Hulu Originals (Matriarch, Grimcutty), Searchlight films (Fresh, Antlers), 20th Century (Prey) and FX Originals (The Patient, American Horror Stories). (Some of these titles are marked as “Hulu Originals” and some aren’t, and it’s not clear why some shows are marked as an “original” and others aren’t.)
Outside of Prey, which was a hit, what’s the thought process behind promoting these other films? Why promote Martiarch, which has a 4.4 ratings on a thousand reviews on IMDb? Films like Run, Fresh and No Exit didn’t resonate with viewers either. Hulu’s strong library content is way more valuable for customers than these originals. If you go to Huluween’s A to Z collection and scroll through it, it’s sort of obvious that their strong library titles are way more popular (like The Purge or Nightmare Alley) than the Original titles that they’re pushing on viewers.
Even weirder? At least some people inside of Hulu seem to know this, at least based on a press release they put out. The PR team highlighted films like The Sixth Sense, Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Blair Watch Project, but customers have to work to find these titles.
These films should be the featured films on the Huluween landing page, not their Originals! You can tell there’s probably a battle internally over the product folks trying to drive engagement, and the “originals” teams desperately pushing their content to get additional views.
This all feels quite emblematic of Hulu’s issues as a streamer, as I’ve been writing about all year. They’re so invested in Hulu Originals (which come from across the Disney corporation, including Searchlight, 20th Century, FX, and elsewhere) at the expense of their very strong library content and day-after-air content.
Now Screaming – Prime Video
First off, points for the pun-based title, which I like. And, if you go to Prime Video, they’re promoting this page right at the top, which is smart. (That said, if you search for “Now Screaming Prime” on Google, this doesn’t pop up. Even worse, the same is true on Amazon!)
After these basics, this landing is almost a parody of what I wouldn’t do if I were running a streamer.
Their first category (and I should clarify, on my TV) is Amazon horror Originals, including The Devil’s Hour, Run Sweetheart Run, Goodnight Mommy, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, The Voyeurs, Suspiria, Manor, The Lie, and more. I’ve written before about Prime Video’s struggles to make great original horror films before—they’ve released eight “Welcome to the Blumhouse” films over the last two years and all were flops; their horror films this year haven’t fared any better—so why are you putting those titles front and center?
Then again, Prime Video doesn’t have great library titles to promote either. The next section on their page is “Top horror films “and the list starts with Unhuman, a film I’ve never heard of, then The Northman for some reason, then The Addams Family and, finally a popular film: A Quiet Place Part II. This last title should probably be the top film they show to users!
Three lines down, they promote Amazon Channels, meaning you have to buy add-ons to see this other content.
I think users distrust and dislike Prime Video and AppleTV+’s confusing UX, trying to figure out what TV shows and films are free versus what costs money. I think this is a sneaky reason why both Apple TV+ and Amazon struggle somewhat. Even wealthier people dislike worrying, every time they open up a streaming app, that they’ll get charged for something they’re not expecting.
Nothing – AppleTV+
Yeah, so Apple doesn’t really have a Halloween landing page, at least not one that I could find. And they don’t have any library titles on any of the lists. And no TV show episodes to promote either.
They do have It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Again, each streamer’s Halloween landing page sort of represents each streamer’s strengths and weaknesses. In this case, well, it’s not hard to see why Apple TV+ has struggled to build a user base. They needed to buy a library back in 2019, and by now they could have migrated library titles to their steamer. Apple doesn’t have any compelling library titles to offer customers and on a night like Halloween, well, that’s a huge drawback.
To evaluate who had the best library titles, I wound up using four lists from three different places.
First, I used The-Numbers top 100 horror films, domestic. The-Numbers is my favorite box office site and their list was somewhat strict, including mostly traditional horror films. I intentionally didn’t use inflation adjusted box office, or else the films might’ve skewed too old. I used Wikipedia’s top grossing films by year, which I thought provided an interesting contrast, then I used Wikipedia’s global list, which had a looser definition for horror, including superhero, action, and family friendly “horror” films.
I also used IMDb’s top horror films by total votes. This list filled out the horror choices quite nicely, if you ask me. A lot of the missing titles I was hoping for, like Hereditary, The Mist, Dusk Till Dawn, Midsommar, Cabin in the Woods, It Follows, The Babadook, and other, weirder genres, like superheroes (Blade, Resident Evil) or family friendly horror films, showed up using this list.
I looked at Rotten Tomatoes top 200 horror films, by reviews, but this list felt off to me. Same with IMDb’s popularity index, which feels way too timely, including recent box office bombs/flops that no one has heard of. I also looked at some “Top Horror films” lists from a bunch of different pop culture websites, but I think between box office and IMDb, we mostly got every film that really matter. I’m missing a bunch of older art house/critical darlings, but oh well. Maybe next year!
To find out where everything is streaming, I did a Google search, checked the streamers that came up, then used Decider/Reelgood and JustWatch as a double check. I have a feeling some of the data might not be current, because these websites haven’t been updated, but given the gap between various streamers, it probably doesn’t matter.
For Originals, I looked at the total volume of horror-themed films and shows in my database, the top Horror themed shows and films in Nielsen’s ratings, and TV Time’s ratings.
On UX, again, this wasn’t qualitative, but involved going to each streamer’s Halloween landing page multiple times and seeing what I liked using best.