The dog days of January.
If the last week of Christmas is “Sweeps Week”, that might be the term for the month of January. As we saw (somewhat) last year, the start of a new calendar year tends to be slow in streaming. (BTW, the theatrical calendar has long considered the January to February time a dead zone.) This year, it felt like a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled wasteland. This isn’t just a reflection on this week—reminder, those for the week of 9-January-2023—but also a bit of a preview for the upcoming weeks as well. Buzzy new releases were so light for next week (starting 16-January-2023) that I’m skipping next week’s streaming ratings report to make a double issue the week after.
(Don’t fret. Next week is my biggest series of the year, my “Dogs Not Barking” for 2022. And I’ll be declaring my winners and losers of the year, which is going to be juicy, buzzy, scandalous, informative and fun at the same time.)
So without a lot of strong titles, will we discover some breakout surprises à la Archive 81 from last year? Let’s see. This week, I’m diving into Velma, The Last of Us, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Dog Gone, Vikings: Valhalla 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 January 9th to December 25th.)
Television – Let’s Talk About IMDb
Since there weren’t a ton of buzzy new shows this week, it gives me a chance to talk about…IMDb ratings.
That controversial nugget.
Why? Because, for my money, IMDb is the best source of viewer opinions about TV shows and films. (But I’m working on a second or third metric to verify this data. Coming in March hopefully.) Since it’s the most popular source for global reviews, it tends to be more accurate than other places like Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes or Amazon. (Letterboxd is catching up, so I may incorporate them, for films, in the future.)
This week, three of the biggest releases were notable because their IMDb scores varied so much— good, mediocre, and ugly—which tells us something about how to use (and abuse) IMDb rankings. In some cases, the scores were all over the map, as the result of “campaigns”, a term I’ll define shortly.
Let’s start with the good, though: an incredible IMDb score.
If you want an example of a show that has as good of IMDb scores as you can imagine, it’s hard to do better than The Last of Us on HBO. It’s currently on a 9.2 on 176K reviews. And that’s in less than four weeks. But the lesson of today is to look past the score, into the distribution.
Here it is:
Holy Cordyceps, that’s a good score. And you can see how the scores are mostly clustered up at the 10 range, implying extremely good ratings. Kind of suspiciously high? Maybe. There’s probably a lot of gamers upvoting the show. Then again, I haven’t heard anyone criticize it. And critics LOVE it, giving it an elite 84 on Metacritic. (Also, the cast and creators are pretty elite.)
This is a show customers love.
By the way, The Last of Us is setting HBO “datecdote” records, having increased the same day audience with each new episode, the gold standard for any TV show, according to HBO. It’s their second biggest premiere for a series since Boardwalk Empire.
Here’s my chart on it (not to brag, but the only one I’ve ever seen):
Samba TV tells a similar story:
We also got word that, while The Last of Us missed the Nielsen charts in its first day, it still ended up with 3.7 million hours in only six or so hours of viewing on Sunday night. That’s a sign it will make the charts à la House of the Dragon and The White Lotus in future weeks. Lastly, I’ll add, The Last of Us is actually a co-production with Sony Pictures, a rarity for HBO.
Back to IMDb ratings. Most often ratings are somewhere in the middle. It looks like a normal distribution, with scores in the middle. Here’s an example from the film The Gray Man, with a “gray” IMDb score:
This means customers watched the show, and most thought, “It was fine”, and rated it a 5, 6 or 7. Some customers will still give it a 10 or a 1, but it still looks mostly normal. (Want more examples of “normal” distributions on IMDb? See The Falcon and Winter Soldier, Archive 81 or The Recruit.)
Unfortunately, every so often customers don’t like a show for political or cultural reasons. Or they love a show for the political or cultural reasons, or they hate or love it for the inverse reasons. Or they’re huge fanboys/girls for a show or franchise. And thus a show is “campaigned”. Defined as:
“Campaigned” – When very online people deliberately upvote or downvote a show or film on IMDb and other review sites to hurt or help its score.
For example Vikings: Valhalla, a show that people on the internet got upset about for political reasons. (Yes, if it isn’t clear, I tend to avoid politics on this newsletter. If you want to dive into the internet BS, have add it on Twitter.)
Here are its IMDb scores:
See the higher number of 10 and 1 star reviews? This show was “campaigned” against and then counter-campaigned to counter act the first campaign. It’s likely probably just shy of an 8 rating in reality, but with these type of votes, it’s tough to know for sure. (This week’s top show Ginny & Georgia had a similar situation, as I discussed last week.)
By the way, Vikings: Valhalla debuted as our 2nd biggest original this week at 17.1 million hours on a Thursday release. (Have you noticed how many more shows or films are getting Thursday releases by Netflix? I have. Ginny & Georgia did, too, last week.)
Then there is Velma…
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