“Tetris” vs. “Murder Mystery 2” (and What This Battle Says About Apple TV+…)

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(Welcome! This is the Entertainment Strategy Guy’s weekly streaming ratings report, the single best guide to what works on streaming and what doesn’t. If you were forwarded this email, please subscribe to get these insights each week.)

It’s been quite a week for me and my team! At first, I was frustrated as I tried to wrangle literally weeks of research into something coherent. (My editor/researcher has been furiously researching the WGA, their demands and their contracts, then trying to figure out how to compile all of that research into one article) Then, before I sent the article out to everyone, I got very nervous about how it would be received.

But by the end of the week…I’m so grateful. Last week’s article on the WGA is one of my best performing articles of all time! And I couldn’t be more relieved. That result genuinely surprised me.

To all of my new WGA and screenwriting readers, welcome! Depending on when/how the negotiations go, I’ll have more to write on that topic, but for a quick reminder on what I’ve written before, please check out my article on flat rate residuals that I wrote for the Ankler. In short, I think increasing flat-rate residuals could backfire for the guild if it causes streamers to pull even more underperforming shows, en masse, from their streaming services.

But how do you know if something is underperforming? You need ratings data. And the WGA should demand more! Luckily, we have streaming ratings data now, something that I think countless screenwriters don’t realize—I’ll be writing about this more later this month—but we definitely need way, way more. Information asymmetry puts screenwriters, directors, showrunners, actors, et al at a competitive disadvantage if they don’t have this data; the streaming companies work very hard to keep this data secret from screenwriters, especially during negotiations. 

But I’m not sure that I’ve heard any WGA negotiators argue for this.

Ratings are just one piece. You also need smart people to analyze this data to figure out what’s a hit, what’s not, and put everything in context. Which is why this report exists! I don’t write this report just for executives and biz affairs folks; I also write it for talent, like WGA screenwriters and low level producers, who don’t have access to the studio’s data and databases.

On to the ratings. Since Nielsen didn’t publish their data until Friday last week, this report is one (business) day late. This week was a pinch light on buzzy/big TV shows; instead, most of the action was on the film side. Read on for “Tetris versus Murder Mystery 2”, my confusion about streaming services’ scheduling, The Night Agent’s big second week, TV Time’s Q1 Report Card, big ratings for sports and awards shows, and a lot more.

(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 March 27th to April 2nd.)

Film – Murder Mystery 2 versus Tetris

This week’s head-to-head film comparison just isn’t a fair fight. Even before I looked at any data, if you asked me, “Hey, Murder Mystery 2…” and I interrupted you and said, “The Adam Sandler Netflix comedy from a couple of years ago?” and you replied, “Yeah, you remembered that?” “Sure,” I’d reply, “I’ve been doing this data thing for a while now.” Anyways, if you finally finished your question and asked, “So what will win, a buzzy film about Tetris starring Taron Edgerton or Murder Mystery 2?” 

I’d have said, “C’mon, Murder Mystery 2 in a landslide.”

And I’d have been right, but that doesn’t make me some sort of expert forecaster. It’s on the much bigger platform (Netflix versus Apple TV+) and it’s a sequel. They do better. For those who want a flashback to previous data eras—back when vague datecdotes were all we had—the first Murder Mystery was one of the first movies to get multiple datecdotes, including a leak from Netflix about its opening weekend (45 million subscribers watched 70% of the film) and a second datecdote that eventually 73 million watched 70% in the first 28 days. (And fun fact to impress your friends: Netflix also later told us that 83 million subscribers watched 2 minutes! That’s three datecdotes)

Overall, Murder Mystery 2 did win, in a landslide, but Tetris did surprisingly well in some metrics, which is why I like using different data sets, since they tell different stories that we have to piece together. Relying on just one data source doesn’t ever tell the whole picture, in my opinion. Though we still have one clear winner, the full data picture gives us a very interesting insight into the streaming wars.

Let’s start with Samba TV, who gives us “unique households” who watch a program over a given time period. Ready?

That’s a blood bath, amiright? I mean, that’s about as big of a gap as you’ll find for two films.

For context, for Apple TV+, 90K in the first two days is fine. Apple TV+ is just a much smaller service. Here are all the Apple TV+ data points we’ve gotten from Samba TV:

And here’s the context for Netflix: Murder Mystery did well, but is far from Netflix’s biggest title (I cut any Netflix films under 1.5 million households, since I have way more Samba TV datecdotes for Netflix films and TV shows):

Now are you ready for the plot twist? Here’s the IMDb chart for both films:

Prestige TV shows and films definitely punch above their weight on IMDb, a trend I’ve noted many, many times before. IMDb doesn’t have a “representative sample size” of global users, and I think its voters may be more online, so higher income. That skews towards upper-tier services like HBO. (IMDb also has a crazy bias towards “genre” series.) As for the results, clearly Tetris is a well-liked film, whereas Murder Mystery 2 got generally panned by customers.

Of course, the positive IMDb scores didn’t drive additional ratings, at least according to Nielsen. Murder Mystery 2 made the charts, along with its predecessor. 

While Tetris didn’t make the charts this week, I could see it showing up next week. 

This is of course the point where I have to note that yeah at 18.7 million hours, this isn’t a great performance. Sure, folks will point out it only has a 97 minute run time, so compared to some longer Netflix films this isn’t THAT bad, but it’s still a far cry from longer films like Red Notice (30.7 million hours, 118 minute run time), Glass Onion (37.1 million hours, 139 minutes) or even You People (26.3 million hours, 117 minutes). Though, to its credit, it revived interest the first film (which got 7.1 million hours), which is partly why Netflix has moved to a sequel/franchise strategy.

The last data point to look at is TV Time. These were the top two films by interest, with the edge going to Murder Mystery 2. 

And this data matches Wikipedia page views. In terms of interest, both films are about the same, with Murder Mystery 2 garnering slightly more interest. 

To me, this says more about Apple TV+ than either film; basically, Netflix just has a lot more subscribers. There’s a lot of people who looked up Tetris, saw where it was streaming, and said to themselves, “Maybe later.” It was interesting, but not interesting enough to drive people to subscribe to Apple TV+. The real test, that I can’t run, is seeing what Tetris would have gotten on Netflix. (Or say, Netflix around Christmas time, when Netflix launches their biggest films.)

Listen, before I started writing this section I told myself, “EntStrategyGuy, don’t bring up your giant series on why “films should go to theaters” again. Trust me, everyone has read it.” And yet…

…c’mon! Why weren’t both of these films potentially theatrical films? Blockbusters? Probably not. But could they have paid for the marketing spend, my new criteria for sending films to theaters, per the logic of streaming services? Probably.

After all, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves beat them both on Wikipedia and IMDb.

Quick Notes on Film

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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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