I had planned to publish a streaming ratings report last week, on 30-December, to cover the last two weeks of November. But then Nielsen didn’t put out their ratings last week, because (rightfully) it was the week after Christmas, so I skipped a week too, which means we have twice as many data points to review.
Here’s the plan to keep you up-to-date on everything “US streaming ratings”:
– Today’s report will cover everything that came out the weeks starting 21-November and 28-November, including the monster hit show, Wednesday!
– Next week’s report will cover everything from the weeks of 5-December and 12-December.
– The week after that will look at the critical week of 19-December, when the streamers usually release a lot of top tier films and shows. (And then we’ll be back on track.)
Since we have twice as many TV shows and ratings to cover, let hop right in to talking about Wednesday’s huge debut, the Troll vs Bullet Train showdown on Netflix, Andor ending its run on the TV Time charts, the debut of Willow on Disney+ and Firefly Lane on Netflix, the biggest flops and bombs of the last two weeks, and more.
(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 November 21st to December 4th.)
When Amazon bought MGM for $9 billion, the most common explanation was that former CEO Jeff Bezos wanted “IP” to exploit. Well, congratulations Amazon, you have your IP super-hit in the monster debut of Wednesday! That’s a spin-off from The Addam’s Family, IP that MGM actually owns! They did it! IP is winning!
Wait, it came out on Netflix? Not Prime Video?
Insert National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, forgot-the-saw “boing” noise here.
I know, I know. It’s Netflix’s time to shine, and I’m taking time to take pot shots at Amazon. But it’s a good lesson that, for all the value of IP, it’s not like MGM had been sitting on its hands NOT selling its stuff around town. Most of MGM’s good IP mines have been excavated. This show was likely in development for years before Amazon came sniffing around.
(Now, could Amazon wrest control back? I’ll touch on that at the end…)
Anyways, yes, Wednesday was huge. It debuted to the 2nd and 4th highest single weeks (of 99.8 and 88.8 million hours respectively) since Nielsen expanded to a top 30 list at the start of 2021. Absolutely huge. And it has elite IMDb scores too, with an 8.3 on over 200K reviews! For global ratings watchers, we had an inkling this was coming—and yes, I don’t write a report on Netflix’s global ratings (yet!)—but even the US viewership surprised me.
But it shouldn’t have. One of the earliest things I tried to explain, when I first started writing as the “Entertainment Strategy Guy”, was “logarithmic distribution of returns” (part three with examples is here); hits aren’t a little better than average, but multiples better than other shows. And I’d always thought Netflix had another, even bigger hit in them, but didn’t write that enough.
Well, Wednesday—which came out on the Wednesday of Thanksgiving weekend—is a huge hit. Here’s it’s ranking on the “40 Million Hour Club”:
Now, this is where we could try to qualify things, meaning accounting for things like the day it was released (it came out on a Wednesday when most shows debut on Fridays), the number of episodes at launch and so on. To keep things apples-to-apples as much as possible.
But here’s the thing: when you have a hit this big, those things sort of don’t really matter. Again, when you’re multiples bigger than other things, you’re bigger across nearly every measurement. So here’s the top season one debut weeks:
Here’s the “viewership per day”, and Wednesday is still number one, a third bigger than Dahmer – Monster:
Here’s viewership per episode (which helps the Disney+ series the most) and it’s still number one:
And finally—while I have hesitations in using this data cut—here’s “viewership per available hour”. (In this metric, I divide total hours viewed by the total run time of a given series or film.)
(Quick tangent: I call that last look VPAH, because I don’t EVER want folks to think it is somehow “completion rate”. I’ve seen that look called “completed views estimate” or “complete viewing equivalents”. I don’t use the words “complete views” because most readers—even if you say it over and over that the metric doesn’t calculate that—then assume that’s how many “viewers completed” it. The metric, then, is misleading lots of folks, and that’s what I try to avoid. But given the scale of this hit, I wanted to cut the metrics every possible way to show that Wednesday was our biggest debut week of all time.)
Any remaining caveats then? Only that we’ve seen good things from Holiday weeks/weekends. (I should look into that more in a future visual or deep dive.) Of the top shows and films of all time, a large, large chunk were released during Fourth of July, Thanksgiving or, especially, Christmas weeks. That’s not a coincidence. Still, this is a smart play by Netflix, to know when they have a winner and give it a prime launch.
I’d also add that focusing on “premiere week” tends to downplay a few Netflix shows that had slow burns, specifically, Squid Game and Tiger King. Here’s viewership for Netflix’s top eight shows first season or limited series, in terms of total hours viewed in the first four weeks, divided by “quick starts” vs “slow burns”:
As a reminder, Tiger King was simply huge during Covid-19 lockdowns.
One more release strategy point: it doesn’t seem coincidental that this is Netflix’s third big show released in the middle of the week. Perhaps Friday releases help with binge viewing (and, say, completion in the first three days), but weekday releases could help with buzz/reach. We’ll have to monitor that hypothesis. (It’s just a hypothesis for now!)
And now the question that clickbait articles keep asking…could Amazon wrest this show back for Prime Video?
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