Buzz vs. Viewership: Outer Banks, Bel-Air, M3GAN, We Have a Ghost, and More!

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The last few weeks have been quiet in the streaming wars, which kind of reminded me of how actual wars are fought. To go off on a bit of a military tangent, wars are often fought seasonally. 

The summer is the “campaign season”, which means after crops are planted but before the fall harvest. For example, as the latest Hardcore History podcast explains, Viking raiders often waited until the summer to raid European villages. To provide a more modern example, in Afghanistan and now in Ukraine, most of the fighting took/takes place in the spring or summer, after the winter snows have melted. During the winter, most insurgents leave the country and/or hide since they can’t freely move in the snow.

Maybe the end of February is the start of “fighting season” for the streaming wars too.

After a few slow weeks, we finally—finally!—have some big shows to talk about. Like the fifth season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, the show that every outlet credits with reviving F1 racing in America. (But that’s WAYYYYYYY too simplistic! The move to ESPN was arguably much bigger; same goes for the ownership change.) Or Bel-Air, a show Peacock announced as their biggest title last year. Or The Consultant on Prime Video, which stars Christoph Waltz as an evil business consultant. (Sorry for the oxymoron there.) 

On the film side, We Have A Ghost, M3GAN and Babylon; all big swings.

And the content battles should only get more fierce over the next few months; instead of crops to sow, there’s Emmy award nominations to be won. And every streamer just loves Emmy nominations. So I’m calling it: this is the first week of the “streaming wars” in 2023. Stay tuned for some big, buzzy weeks. 

But first, the biggest show of the week, the quietly impressive Outer Banks.

(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 20th to February 26th.)

TV – Outer Banks Had a Massive Opening

Sometimes, as I write the report each week, a theme naturally emerges. This week, that theme is the difference between “buzz” and viewership.

For example, take Outer Banks. It’s a YA show on Netflix, sort of Dawson’s Creek for the 2020s streaming era. And guess what? No one thinks it’s “cool”. It won’t win awards. I don’t even know the show creators’ names. Fine, let me look it up: Josh Pate, Jonas Pate and Shannon Burke.

I bet you didn’t know that. Well, know that those creators created a massive hit on Netflix. (Season three came out on Thursday 23-February with thirty episodes). How massive? Well, that’s what I’m here for, isn’t it?

First, here’s the top ten list for this week, and you can see it right at the tippy-top:

Yep, 52 million hours in its first week. That’s the best single-week of streaming this year and the 16th highest single week since the beginning of 2021. The anticipation was high enough that Outer Banks actually made the Nielsen charts last week, before new episodes came out, as viewers got ready/caught up before the latest episodes dropped.

And yes, Outer Banks joined the “40 Million Hour Club”:

This is a really big jump over season two’s 2021 run, which got 23.7 million hours when it came out (followed by weeks of 35, 19.3 and 12.3 million hours). We’re seeing the “gold standard” for a TV series: growing viewership season-over-season. For comparison, that’s the second highest debut for a season three in my data set, out of 45 season threes to make the Nielsen charts. 

Here’s how that compares to other shows with similar number of episodes upon release:

Showlabs backs up the Nielsen data. (Don’t you love it when data sources align?) In this case, here are a few of the biggest releases since 2022, in terms of total unique viewers:

I mean, it’s half the size of Stranger Things in terms of unique viewers. Which shows how big Stranger Things is, but also how big Outer Banks is. Meanwhile, Samba TV put Outer Banks did 1.6 million in L+3.

Outer Banks has as many households watching according to Samba TV as the season 3 debut of The Mandalorian. The only weak point is that Outer Banks only has a 7.5 on IMDb on 64K reviews, which is pinch low for a show of this size. But does that matter? Because the show was a ratings hit! 

Once again, consider this gap between “buzz/acclaim” and “viewership” for Outer Banks. Hollywood needs more Pate brothers and Shannon Burkes, and, if I were an executive, these are the creators or types of creators I’d being trying to find hire, especially compared to other, “buzzier” screenwriters.  

Quick Notes on TV

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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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