Plum Research’s ShowLabs Joins the Streaming Ratings Report, Plus the Battle of the Valentine’s Day Romcoms

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We’re still working our ways through a relatively quiet period in the streaming wars, but these things are relative. I mean, I still tracked eighteen new streaming releases this week! That’s low for streaming, but still a lot of shows to analyze. (And I have a cool, cool, cool chart on this later in this report.) And things will take off again shortly. (See the “Coming Soon” section for a graph on that too!)

That leaves us time for a big, big announcement. I’m introducing a new data source:

ShowLabs! (From Plum Research)

When I started this streaming ratings report, one of my goals was to be the “Switzerland” of streaming ratings. I’m not beholden to any customers, besides you the readers. The streamers? I don’t need their press leaks. And instead of just using one data source, I’m trying to work with all of them, so I can offer a “poll of polls” à la Nate Silver if you will, meaning I take multiple data sources and try to evaluate what’s really popular by putting it into context and comparing multiple different data sources. 

Introducing this new data source will help fulfill that vision, while taking this report to an even higher data level, so let’s get right into it. 

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, ShowLabs, TV Time trend data, Samba TV household viewership, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Google Trends, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of February 6th to February 12th.)

Introducing Plum Research’s ShowLabs Data

A few of you may have heard of Plum Research’s ShowLabs tool before. They host a Medium blog, and I’ve linked to it before. Sometime last year, as this newsletter was picking up steam, they reached out to me to say that their data would fit well into my weekly streaming ratings report. And I agreed!

Launching a paywall for my newsletter and taking care of any number of tasks kept me busy for a lot of 2022, but towards the end of the year, I was finally able to start collecting their data and categorizing it. 

(One of the things that separates me from other data companies—and slows me down, to be honest—is that I have a more hands on approach to data. I don’t trust other company’s genre labeling, for example, so I double check a lot of it myself. That takes time.)

So what is ShowLabs? ShowLabs is the data portal from the company Plum Research. They build panels of customers for various streamers and track their viewership. How they sign-up customers, collect the data, and how they structure their panels are part of their “secret sauce”, and I don’t know all the details.

One of my requirements to feature a data source is regular reporting, preferably with a actual numbers. ShowLabs fulfilled both the requirements, and went a step further, providing me with historical data too. Since I’m publishing their data publicly, naturally they had to provide some limits on how much I’d release (the same way Nielsen only releases 30 data points a week), and after discussing it, we agreed to report on a top five list for TV and Film per streamer for one metric. After talking with them, the metric I most wanted to include was “Unique viewers” for given series. ShowLabs provided me with the top five films and TV series for three different streamers, with data going back to 2022 (and in some cases) beyond.

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

Cool, huh? 

(I plan to include this visual in the Appendix each week.)

I haven’t dusted off my “Data 5Ws” tool in a pinch, but it’s useful to explain what this data source actually provides:

Who: Unique Viewers
Where: In America
When: In a given week
What: Of films and TV series on streaming video
What: On any device
Who: For Prime Video, HBO Max and Netflix
When: Going back to May of 2022 for HBO Max, January of 2022 for Prime Video, and January of 2020 for Netflix.

Let’s talk about the biggest change from my Nielsen data set, the fact that I’m using ShowLab’s “Unique Viewers” metric. First, based on my research and conversations with the Plum Research team, I think this is their most accurate number. I also like it because—even though I won’t compare them, as I’ll discuss below—having two different metrics on customer behavior, hours viewed (from Nielsen) and unique viewers (from ShowLabs) provides a more comprehensive look. 

Unique viewers has a different set of biases compared to “total hours viewed”, and having both provides everyone with a more complete picture of a show or film’s performance. For example, kids content won’t perform as well in this metic, since there aren’t as many kids in the population, and, unlike total hours, rewatching content doesn’t increase the number of unique viewers. I’d add, this will also work against some of the second-run shows with lots of episodes, like NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy. 

I think that this look will balance well with Nielsen’s hours viewed metrics.

Now, I also need to put out a big, big warning with the data. Plum Research’s head of data/research specifically warned me that these data sets don’t make for good comparisons between streamers. (That’s partially why they haven’t provided me Hulu or especially Disney+ yet.)So when I set up the Top 5 Lists each week, I won’t make a “top 30” list, for example, because that would be comparing the streamers to each other. My understanding is that since ShowLabs has different panels per streamer, they don’t want to compare the streamers, since it depends more on panel composition. And I agree. (If this changes as they update their processes/methods, I’ll let you know.)

Similarly, please don’t try to do cross-analytics company comparisons, specifically dividing the viewers here to Nielsen’s (or Netflix’s) total hours viewed. Or comparing it to Samba TV’s households. Don’t do that! Different data companies use such different methodologies that comparing them is NOT “apples-to-apples”. They calculate things in different ways, so please, please, please don’t compare them. Instead, compare the data to the same company’s historical data. (Or let me do it for you!)

Last warning, I’ve just started to scratch the surface of this data. While I have data going back through 2022, I’m only confident I’ve proofread the 2023 data so far. My plan is to add a quarter or so of data every week, allowing me to make better analysis over time. You probably have lots of questions and want me to look at a bunch of data cuts. We’ll get there! Just not today.

Some Data Insights

With the warning that I’ve just started unpacking this data, I have found a few insights to deliver in this first report.

Insight 1: Three popular second run shows, Friends, South Park and Rick and Morty drive lots of viewership on HBO Max. Expect to see them make the ShowLabs’ charts most weeks. Again their data only goes back to May of 2022, but in that time, these shows have been on the ShowLabs rating report almost every week. (I’m eager to see how other Originals performed in that time period compared to say the big HBO shows like Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, Euphoria, The White Lotus, and The Last of Us.)

Insight 2: The Prime Video data set includes TVOD and Freevee viewing with Prime Video subscriptions. That means some films not actually streaming on Prime Video will show up in the charts every so often. For example, Top Gun: Maverick made the charts during Christmas week. I plan to label these titles as such.

Insight 3: Netflix had a great quarter so far in terms of their original films. Most of their list is dominated by their self-produced content. That said, scanning the historical lists, the biggest surprise is that quite a few theatrical titles do very well on Netflix.

There is plenty more to come with this data set, and we’ve just got started. Thank you to Plum Research for providing me with their ShowLab reports and I hope you enjoy the new data!

Linear Ratings of the Week – Do I Need To Tell You The Super Bowl was Huge?

As a reminder, this report covers the week of 6-February to 12-February, which had a huge event on Sunday: 

The Super Bowl!

This is a huge event every year, a fact I don’t need to tell you. But I probably do need to remind you that its viewership dwarfs anything on streaming. Here’s the Google Trends comparison to the biggest shows and films in 2022:

The NFL smashed ratings all post-season, of course. Its first weekend games averaged 28.4 million average viewers, its second weekend averaged 32.2 million viewers, and its conference championship games averaged 50 million viewers. This peaked into the Super Bowl, where 113 million average viewers watched. Just for fun, using my calculations to hours viewed, here’s how that compares to Thursday Night Football:

That Super Bowl number is what Wednesday did for Netflix through six weeks. Yeah, football is huge in America.

Television – You‘s Fourth Season Had a Big Debut

The big release of the week was season four of You on Netflix. This show has been huge for Netflix over time, and the latest five episode mini-season didn’t disappoint, grabbing the top spot on the charts this week with 28.9 million hours after debuting on a Thursday, with only five episodes. Here’s a chart with comparisons: 

(As a note, Nielsen didn’t publish ratings when You season 2 came out, but provided a “datecdote” when You season 3 came out. Presumably it had a lot more viewership we don’t know about.)

At this point, we can confidently say that Netflix has clearly modified their release schedule for tentpole series in their third season or beyond. First, instead of only releasing shows on Friday (or mostly releasing shows on Fridays) Netflix is now open to putting shows out on other days of the week. 

Second, “batching” is the new “binge-ing”, as shows like Stranger Things, Ozark, You, La Casa De Papel and Firefly Lane all avoided a true, single-season binge release. (This is also true for many reality shows.)

Quick Notes on TV

The rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so if you want to know…

…who won the battle of the Valentine’s Day romcoms…
…the “Dogs Not Barking” of the week….
…if the number of new streaming releases is up or down….
…which streamer had the most “single title viewers”…
…and the brand new, super comprehensive Streaming Ratings Report appendix…

and more, then 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. 

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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