Okay, I’ve spent the last week laying out which TV shows and films bombed or flopped in 2022, and figured out which TV shows won the whole year. Now it’s time to “rank” the streamers by winners—which are fairly obvious—and losers, which is a bit harder to figure out, since it requires balancing the hits off the miss, and figuring out their rough “hit rate”.
I’ll also hand out arguably the most “strategic” or useful set of awards: what genres performed best and what streamers took home the top prizes? I also have some larger strategic thoughts for/inspired by each streamer, including some things I’ve been arguing for a while and some new ideas I got looking back at the past year’s worth of flops.
Figuring our what worked and what flopped in 2022 isn’t some idle exercise; it provides a lot of strategic insight into the streaming wars and, by extension, the future of Hollywood.
Not to toot my own horn, but I think that my analysis benefits from looking at the streaming ratings each week. Not only do I get a better sense of who’s up (Amazon in the first half of 2022; Peacock more lately) and who’s down (Hulu’s rough fall; Netflix’s rough January) earlier than most people—if at all, since the online “conversation” often has no idea what normal people actually like—I know why those streamers are up or down and what shows are driving it. Other commentators, reporters and pundits don’t actually know what works on streaming (or in entertainment in general) and I think their strategic advice suffers from it.
Industry-Wide Strategic Takeaways for Hollywood
1. This output is unsustainable.
Often, over the last few years, I find myself arguing fairly obvious things, yet they’re not obvious to many people around town. If there’s a reason that I’m writing this series, each year, it’s this:
This pace of production is not sustainable.
We had over 140 notable bombs, flops and misses among TV shows alone. I’m not sure I even caught every flop. Again, my initial list was six pages long. FX Research pegs the numbers of English scripted series at 599. Others, factoring in international shows, have that number a lot higher. And a lot of these shows are really, really expensive. I just can’t see a world where this continues, especially with streaming the way it is right now. Everyone is losing so much money.
But this isn’t just a problem for the streamers…
2. There’s a human cost to this.
In my articles over the last week, I’ve been snarky at times. And that may distract from a very real point that I want to make:
There’s a human cost to this unsustainable productions.
At some point, the streamers are going to start pulling back. As I just wrote for the The Ankler, everyone in town is talking about how TV shows are getting cancelled, pulled from streamers, or getting “un-ordered”. But it could get worse.
If it gets worse, a lot of people lose jobs. Or work less. And make less money. And suffer. And it sucks, to be inelegant about it. I know people who work on many of the shows I mentioned last week. This makes me very afraid for these people and their jobs.
3. Hollywood makes a lot of shows most Americans don’t want to watch.
I wrote about this last year for the Ankler, and this exercise is another way of proving it. I think, right now, there’s a huge disconnect between what most Americans like to watch (broadly popular fare, like sitcoms and procedurals) versus award-winning prestige shows that critics love.
Listen, this applies to me. One of my top five sitcoms this century is 30 Rock. But I always knew that its obscure jokes, like quick references to Nikki Finke, for example, just sailed over most Americans’ heads. Sure enough, it always struggled to deliver ratings. The difference between then and now is that most people in Hollywood don’t realize or don’t want to realize that this is the case. Present-day “30 Rocks” are considered to be hits, even when they aren’t.
4. Use this list to align your shows with what audiences want to watch!
To all development execs, productions heads, writers, and so on: take note of what people want to watch and learn from it. The lack of ratings (pre-streaming ratings era) and the different demographic profiles of the initial cord cutters really distorted what Hollywood makes vs. what people want to watch.
You’re no longer competing with just…I don’t know…radio? You’re competing with YouTube and TikTok and digital distractions. If your content only appeals to a small slice of America, you’re not going to be competing for long.
What do people want to watch? Glad you asked…stay tuned for the next section.
5. Hey, unions, force the streamers to release more ratings.
No, seriously, WGA and other guilds: demand weekly ratings from the streamers! It will help claw back residuals by making this data public! (I’ll be writing about this more before the WGA negotiations and possible strike.)
6. In the future, there might be fewer “Dogs Not Barking”.
Again, this is our term for shows that fail to make any Top Ten lists. In the best case scenario, I hope that we get even more ratings (does Nielsen expand to a top twenty list? Do more streamers release weekly top ten lists a la Netflix?), which will limit the number of shows that get zero data points.
Or, in the worst case scenario, do the streamers will pull back on original content?
Genre Winners and Losers for 2022
As a reminder, no genre is perfect. Even the best “genres” will have misses, sometimes big misses. But this is about “hit rate” again, combined with the highest ceilings.
The rest of this post is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so please subscribe.
We can only keep doing this great work with your support. If you’d like to read more about why you should subscribe, please read these posts about the Streaming Ratings Report, why it matters, why you need it, and why we cover streaming ratings best.