Netflix Takes Over The Ratings Charts…With Caveats

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Due to the long Thanksgiving weekend, I didn’t publish a streaming ratings report on 25-November. But that meant analyzing an extra week’s worth of ratings data and assembling a double issue and, of course, it took me working through the weekend to get it finished. (Fingers crossed, we’re back on track this week…)

Overall, the theme of the last two weeks of October (reminder: the weeks starting 24-Oct and 31-Oct) was the resurgence of Netflix; the only streamer to place new series onto the Nielsen ratings charts. But it’s a resurgence with a few caveats…

(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 October 24th to November 6th.)


While the momentum was with Netflix, some of its new shows didn’t debut quite as strongly as I would have expected. For example, Manifest was widely regarded as the “hit of the summer” in 2021, and it might just be me, but its 2022 debut…felt a little light? 

I mean, anyone talking about this show after season four came out on Friday 4-November?

Still it notched an impressive 22.9 million hours in its first three days. 

Here’s how that compares to other season four releases:

I don’t think folks would have predicted Manifest was more like 13 Reasons Why or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina than Cobra Kai or Ozark.

Now it’s time to get a little wonky with the data analysis. Some other data analysts prefer “estimated completed views” metric (it can go by different names) that divides total hours viewed by total run time for shows or films. I avoid this metric because I think it implies we know how many folks are completing shows and films and and we really, really, really, really don’t that number. (I’ll have a longer article in the new year on this.)

That said, a TV show’s length (number of episodes + average run time of episodes) can impact the total hours viewed. I don’t deny that. That’s partially why Grey’s Anatomy is a staple of the “acquired TV” charts. I just try to account for this by balancing out those variables and letting you see the relationship yourself, without making a “completed views” metric that implies we know something (how many folks completed an episode) that we don’t. 

For example, if you’re worried Manifest has more episodes than other season four series, you’d be right! That might explain why it performed better than shows with smaller episode counts.

So I adjusted the graph to show this. Here’s the top shows released in seasons three, four, or five, by number of episodes. And yeah:

I really like this look (and I hope it isn’t too confusing). Expect it to show up in future ratings reports for TV series in their third, fourth, fifth or beyond seasons where applicable. 

This look really makes my point, that for a show that took over Netflix last summer, Manifest’s ratings are sort of just fine compared to other debuts. Ozark season 3, Cobra Kai season 4 and Virgin River season 4 all had nearly twice as much viewing as Manifest, yet had fewer episodes on release. (Not to mention uber-super-hit Stranger Things!)

Some of the other non-Nielsen data points for Manifest are also a little weak. Not bad, but weaker than I would have guessed. On IMDb, the show only has 66K reviews and it has a 7.1 score, so that’s “good” but just shy of great-to-excellent. The show also had a three week run on TV Time, which is also good and expected for mid-range Netflix hits, but not “super monster hits”, which was sort of the opinion on Manifest last summer.

I have two theories, which are nothing more than theories. (Fine, hypotheses I can’t test.) First, the show might have run out of steam in later seasons, meaning a lot of folks aren’t completing the whole run. (Also indicating NBC may have been right in cancelling it.) Second, unlike some other TV shows—that kept building their audiences each season—maybe everyone really did watch the first three seasons last summer. Third, and more conspiratorially, maybe the accusations that super fans boosted the ratings by leaving the show on all day were true. (But Netflix could have easily seen that in the data.) Of the explanations, the first and second are much more likely but the this is more fun.

Quick Notes on TV

– The “genre wars” have finally ended. Today, I’ll do a quick check in, but I’ll close things out with a deep dive in the next issue. The only show still on the rankings is Andor, and it only barely squeaked on…because Nielsen told me it’s ratings after I asked. It was up 10% week-over-week to 7.0 million hours, but that still wasn’t enough to make the rankings this week. (C’mon Nielsen, give us a Top 15 list in 2023. That’s my Christmas wish.) Dahmer – Monster dropped off the week of 31-October as did House of the Dragon.

– Here’s the weekly viewership charts for the weekly released series:


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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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