The Best (And Worst) Performing Streaming Shows and Films in 2022

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It’s time to put a bow on the streaming wars in 2022. I spent all year celebrating hits in my weekly streaming ratings report, and the last two articles calling out the misses of the second half of the year. (Lest people—especially new readers—think I’m all negativity, my streaming ratings reports tend to be very positive overall, mostly celebrating and analyzing new, hit shows. I spend maybe four paragraphs each week on the bombs/“Dogs Not Barking”—unless something does really poorly—and pages and pages celebrating the hits. Even this article declares winners for five pages and spend two on the “losers”.)

Time to tie it all together, put everything in perspective and…

Hand out some awards! The “Winners and Losers for Film and TV in 2022”, as determined by yours truly! There is nothing more Hollywood than arbitrary/meaningless awards! (On Tuesday, I’ll rank the streamers and share my strategic takeaways from this exercise.)

I’ve done this each of the last three years. (It’s also a nice little representation of all the places I’ve been writing over the years.) See:

2022 (so far)



Not to brag, but if you want a pretty comprehensive scan of who won and lost the content battles of the streaming wars over the past few years, it’s hard to do better than that.

When I started listing out winners, I decided to divide things up in a few different ways, separating binge releases from weekly releases, new series from returning series, and so on. Did this result in a bunch of categories? It sure did, but considering that there were nearly 600 scripted shows released in America alone, handing out a dozen or so awards doesn’t seem like overkill, does it? I didn’t try to hand out awards to hand them out, but wanted to acknowledge the genuine hits and genuine bombs of 2022.

In my next, and final, installment on Monday, I’ll run through the streaming service winners and losers, the genre winners and losers, and my strategy takeaways on “what this all means”.

(Since I hope this article will get passed around, I want to thank all our paying subscribers who genuinely make this possible. If you appreciate this content, please consider subscribing. And if you support a big team and share this email among them, consider upgrading to a group membership.)

Winners – TV

Best New Binge Release and Debut Week – Wednesday (Netflix)

Anointing winners and losers isn’t some counter-intuitive exercise, mind you. I’m not trying to “blow your mind”. Sort of like in 2021, when you already knew that Squid Game was the hit of the year, in 2022 Wednesday is the clear number one new show. No matter how you measure it, Wednesday smashed ratings records, especially since Netflix wisely positioned it to come out on Wednesday of Thanksgiving weekend.

Honorable Mentions: Dahmer – Monster must feel like the Philadelphia Eagles right now. It’s great to play in the Super Bowl; it’s better to win it. Before Wednesday’s insane opening, it had this category all to itself. And yet, Wednesday was huge. However, Dahmer – Monster can at least comfort itself with the prize for top Google Trends TV series in 2022:

Reacher also gets an honorable mention nod; its big, big debut surprised folks way back in February, taking the prize for top binge release to that point in time. Yes, for six months Prime Video actually had claim to “largest opening weekend by a first season show”. But first Dahmer – Monster and then Wednesday stole the crown back.

Best Returning Release and Debut – Stranger Things season 4 (Netflix)

I know I said I’ll do streaming service winners and losers next week, but if you’re Netflix and have the biggest returning TV show and the biggest debut binge-released series, you gotta like your chances. Like Wednesday, Stranger Things’ fourth season smashed opening viewing records no matter how you count it, coming in the top spot on the weekly Top 10 charts and Nielsen’s annual chart. Netflix also wisely spread out viewership over a month—releasing the show in two batches— top help drive interest. (Yes, not a weekly release…but we’re getting closer!)

Honorable Mentions: Netflix released Ozark’s fourth and final season in two batches, in January and April, and I’m convinced that it’s the most underrated show on this list. It’s just a show folks on the coasts don’t really talk about, but until Stranger Things, it clearly had the prize for the top returning show. I’d add, it had the most weeks on the TV Time TV charts, staying for 14 weeks on the charts for 97 points, compared to Stranger Things 12 weeks for 92 points.

Best New Weekly Series – House of the Dragon (HBO/HBO Max)

Going strictly by Nielsen streaming hours, House of the Dragon was still the biggest weekly series this year, even though its episodes debuted on HBO on premium cable. (I include premium cable shows in my streaming rankings, since subscribers still have to pay for it. Nielsen tracks these premium cable shows if they arrive on streaming, but classify them as “acquired” content.) I also gave House of the Dragon the crown for the “genre wars” that started in August, though Wednesday would obviously have as good of a claim. The biggest rival was obviously Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series, The Rings of Power, but as you can see, House of the Dragon lasted for longer, ultimately besting it.

I would add, both Wednesday and House of the Dragon are competing for the “IMDb crown”, meaning the series with the most reviews and highest ratings. Wednesday has an 8.2 on over 270K reviews and House of the Dragon has an 8.5 on over 300K reviews. Other contenders that had high ratings include Heartstopper on Netflix, The Offer on Paramount+ and Severance on Apple TV+ (but those shows all had much lower total number of reviews).

Honorable Mentions: Andor won the prize for top weekly series on TV Time, with a score of 98 for 11 weeks. In fact, that’s the highest TV Time score for any series in 2022:

Andor also wins my prize for “biggest question mark” of the year. I’m convinced it built an audience throughout season one, and sort of like The White Lotus, I think its second season could really pop. For now, though, it just doesn’t have the Nielsen ratings to match that positive buzz. So we’ll see. (If I were Disney/Lucasfilm, I’d embrace and explore this fascinating time period in the Star Wars timeline—the birth of the rebellion—way, way more, and not rush to get to the end. Stay here! Linger! Tell more fascinating spy/insurgency stories!)

Biggest New Weekly Series Debut – The Rings of Power (Prime Video)

This might be where we start to really mince hairs about “top” shows by given categories, but it’s worth pointing out that The Rings of Power still had the highest debut for a series with only one or two episodes at launch, which is still an accomplishment. Plus, the distinction between weekly series and binge releases really does matter. Comparing eight-to-ten episodes to one-to-two episodes just isn’t a fair fight.

Biggest Weekly Returning – The Boys

Okay, if I was mincing hairs above, now I’m micro-planing cilia. By my count, only twelve weekly, returning series made the charts in 2022. (Though a few more shows came out, they missed the charts.) But of those, The Boys did grab the top spot with its third season.

Honorable Mention: Only Murders in the Building would win the returning prize for half-hour series, if I divided things up that way, but then we’d have a much too small sample size. This is where you’d wonder how well Paramount+’s genre and Tyler Sheridan series perform on streaming. Overall, a few of the shows had very long runs on TV Time, but nothing on the top of the charts.

Biggest Cable Series – Yellowstone (Paramount Channel/Peacock)

Yeah, I know this is a streaming ratings report, but let’s not ignore Yellowstone, a show with massive linear ratings that still helped Peacock drive viewership. It’s the “Top Gun: Maverick” of TV series. Some facts:

  • Among all viewers, it was the third most watched show in 2021-2022
  • It even beat Monday Night Football! It’s the only scripted series to do that.
  • Is it just old people? No, it’s the fifth best show in the “demo” (a category that I don’t really love) right behind Thursday Night Football.

Yellowstone also had the most viewers among cable, premium and streaming shows in its first day. At this point, I don’t think people need to clarify the difference between cable and broadcast ratings; a hit cable channel show can do broadcast numbers. I’d just emphasize this difference less.

(Honorable Mention: Sure, you could also look this up, but NCIS takes home the prize for top drama on broadcast and Young Sheldon takes home the prize for top comedy. And the NFL takes home the prize for “all the ratings”. These ratings are through the end of May for the “2021-2022 season”, but I’d bet these three still win if we calculated things through the calendar year instead.)

Winners – Film

Most Popular Film – Top Gun: Maverick

Yeah, yeah yeah, this isn’t a streaming film. But who doubts that this thing smashed records for Paramount+? I mean they said it did. But this is the chart that matters:

When even Steven Spielberg is thanking you (i.e. Tom Cruise) for saving theaters, you know you have a hit. (Fingers crossed he “saves” the Oscars too!)

Biggest Streaming Run – Tie: Glass Onion: A Benoit Blanc Mystery and Turning Red

Released late into 2022, Glass Onion: A Benoit Blanc Mystery (the title this film should have) had a massive second week, boosted by Christmas, a.k.a. streaming sweeps week, delivering the most hours for a streaming in film in America yet. Yes, it looked like it had a slightly weaker global debut than you would have expected, but that didn’t apply in America. Through four weeks of release, this thing was a monster.

However, if you look through 8 weeks…

…then Disney’s Turning Red comes out on top. Meanwhile, Sing 2 on Netflix takes home second place. So call it Turning Red for kids films and Glass Onion for adults.

(Honorable Mentions: The Adam Project was the best action film on Netflix, while Bullet Train quietly grabbed the title for best Pay-1 adult film. Meanwhile, either Purple Hearts or Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming probably win the prize for best ROI.)

Biggest Debut Weekend – Hocus Pocus 2 (Disney+)

While Glass Onion started slightly slower and took off, Hocus Pocus 2 had a huge weekend and immediately dropped viewership week-over-week. However, Disney knows they have a future kids-friendly Halloween for years to come, making this film even more valuable in the long-run. (It still should have gone to theaters. )

Most Watched Film – Encanto

As a reminder, this list is for films and TV shows released in 2022. So usually films like Encanto don’t count. But Nielsen puts out a list for the most watched films and shows period in ALL of 2022. And Encanto just smashed it utterly out of the park, likely helped because it was a kids film.

Amazingly, it grabbed the top spot on TV Time too. 


Let’s be honest, folks come to this article for the losers. That’s where the juicy meat and gossip lies. Sure, we all like when things do well, but we love when others fail. And everyone already pretty much knew the winners.

As I’ve written repeatedly, every time I write about flops, bombs, misses and DNBs, I don’t enjoy this. Or revel in the misery. But the industry has been skewed by folks assuming every show is a hit, even if many are not.  We need some perspective about what shows and films are actually doing well and which are not.


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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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