Should Kids Shows Be “Popular”?

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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 television and what doesn’t. If you were forwarded this email, please subscribe to get these insights each week.)

As the WGA strike finishes its second week, we really haven’t seen much movement from either side. Will we see this impact on content any time soon? Probably not. As others have pointed out, some folks think the studios stocked up on completed scripts before the strike began. Plus shows take months to produce, so even if new productions can’t start, shows that are in-production and post-production will continue to wrap up their seasons. 

Related to post-production timelines, I see lot of folks saying that Netflix has an advantage in this lockout because they have a pipeline of “three to six months” of content. This is both true and false. Netflix does have longest post-production timelines in the business. So while they don’t make you “wait” to watch a show, since they binge-release almost everything, they do make you “wait” those three to six extra months to watch while they finish making every episode of a TV show season.

(Though even this release strategy is slowly going away, as you can read in the “coming soon” section.)

What this means is that if the strike goes past July—which is when broadcast shows need to start filming—it will impact the traditional studios/networks first. But if the lockout lasts, say, nine months, then the traditional studios and broadcast networks will have new shows before Netflix does, like they did during the pandemic. We saw this a bit in 2021, as the other streamers had stronger starts while Netflix didn’t get some of its high profile shows until late 2021 and 2022.

But that’s all in the future. Today is a look at the current streaming ratings. Today, I’m going to cover the return of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die, Cocaine Bear and more. 

But we start with a mini-dive into kids content…

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, ShowLabs from Plum Research, 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 April 10th to April 16th.)

Television – The Popularism “Debate” Comes for Kids TV

This week, one of the most popular TV shows in the world came back. Was it Stranger Things? Mando? House of the Dragon?

Nope, it was Cocomelon. Don’t believe me? Just check out Nielsen’s overall charts from 2022:

Of the top fifteen acquired titles, three were kids shows. Cocomelon was basically the third most popular show last year. And Bluey was the sixth, even beating Wednesday in terms of hours viewed. To be fair, Cocomelon and Bluey had episodes available all last year, and Wednesday came out at the end of November, but still, these shows are huge year in and year out.

Netflix also released The Boss Baby: Back in the Crib, which represents an interesting, but much bemoaned, shift for Netflix’s kid programming: they’re seemingly returning to licensed properties for their kids content, as opposed to original properties that they developed in house. When Netflix first got into kids content, they did a big deal with Dreamworks to fill their pipeline. But their content priorities shifted: the goal was to move out of acquired/licensed IP into their own branded stuff. They’ve since only had so-so success with that approach.

Just check out Netflix’s kids Wikipedia page:

Basically, all of the TV shows based on pre-existing IP (except for He-Man) have already been renewed. This also tracks with my (somewhat) limited Nielsen data. (Kids shows don’t tend to make the charts all that often, which is why I’d love if Nielsen broke kids content out separately, though I understand why they don’t. It’s a tricky thing to define.) Scanning the most popular kids shows, well, most of them are based off popular pre-existing IP, like Jurassic Park, Boss Baby, Mickey Mouse, and so on. (It also shows the power of theaters to boost kids TV series. And popular kids books, like Go Dog Go! and Dr. Seuss books.)

Not everyone is happy with this shift, of course. As Yahoo bemoaned last year, Netflix once promised…

unprecedented creative freedom and healthy production budgets…you could bring a project that might not have gained traction anywhere else, and suddenly have it produced, without much studio interference. 

But then Netflix changed focus again. Now they want “to make what our audience wants to see.” citing The Boss Baby as the type of show that kids want to watch. Why did Netflix want more Boss Baby-type shows? Because their viewers wanted to watch Boss Baby!

Once again, we’re back to the debate over, “Should entertainment companies make popular TV shows?” debate. (I know, this sounds absurd to debate whether people should make TV shows and movies that regular people (not critics) want to watch, but that happens a lot these days.)

Now, with kids content, I’m actually kind of conflicted about catering to kids’ tastes versus making high quality, if niche, content. On the one hand, as a parent, I know what it’s like to see your kids fall in love with certain TV shows that feel like the visual equivalent of sugary cereal. I won’t name any names, but I can think of at least one TV show that, whenever my kids watch, they turn into maniacs. (And it involves JJ.)

On the other hand, like so much Hollywood content these days, well-meaning creators and critics sort of delude themselves into thinking that certain niche kids shows, especially critically acclaimed shows, are more popular than they actually are. Basically, they want the shows they like to be universally beloved, even if they aren’t. Or they believe that a promotional campaign would have convinced legions of children to watch shows that they don’t actually want to watch.

I don’t want to name anything in particular, but you probably know what I’m talking about. Do kids want to watch prestige, art house kids content? Maybe some small percentage of them do. But at the end of the day, do way more kids want to watch The Boss Baby? Yeah, they do.

(Some shows do both. I think Bluey is the ur-example of what everyone should go for: terrific educational content, a unique style, plus kids love it.)

One final point: with both Bluey and Cocomelon, it shows that Hollywood’s obsession with exclusivity is a bit needless. All of Cocomelon is available on YouTube, where it’s basically the most popular content in the world. But it’s still Netflix’s most popular content as well. Same with Bluey, which airs on the Disney Channel as well. If Bluey does well in both places, why doesn’t Disney share more content across both platforms?

(Rugrats’ 2021 reboot also returned with more episodes this week, but that show hasn’t made any of the metrics I track.)

Quick Notes on TV

  • The genres of the biggest debuts of the week were not surprising if you’ve read this newsletter for any length of time: crime and true crime. On the crime side, Netflix released Florida Man, a crime thriller about a man who goes to Florida to find a girl; it debuted to 10.8 million hours in its first week. (It came out on a Thursday.) The weirdest factoid I have about this show was that, through its second week, it didn’t have a single review on Metacritic. (Even now it only has three.) Netflix also released American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing, and it’s about…you guessed it…the Boston Marathon bombing. It did remarkably similar numbers to Florida Man, debuting at 10.3 million hours, but it had one extra day to get that viewership. (It came out on a Wednesday, like most Netflix true crime docs.)

  • Also on Netflix was Obsession, an erotic thriller about a father who has an affair with his son’s fiancé. It only debuted to 4.8 million hours and with a 5.1 on IMDb (without a campaign) I doubt it picks up from there.

  • The biggest “returning” series—my term for series on the second, third or beyond season—was easily The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, one of Prime Video’s biggest hits. Prime Video released it with three episodes, then went weekly. (A smart strategy!) That said, with the launch of its fifth (and final) season, the show might be showing its age, as its performance was mixed across the metrics I track. It missed the Nielsen charts in its first week, but has had a good run on TV Time, holding on for four weeks and moving up to second place on the charts. It did climb to the top of the Showlabs charts, as expected.

  • Looking forward, I bet Maisel makes the Nielsen charts next week. The show has elite IMDb scores (an 8.7 on 123K reviews) and you can see the the interest it has on TV Time. The previous season also made the charts for seven weeks, including debuting at 8.3 million hours. One final joke, though: Amazon still has this tag on the showpage. I mean, that’s a weird flex, right? That was a long time ago!

  • On HBO Max, Titans returned for the second part of its fourth season. For those who don’t know, it’s based on DC’s Teen Titans, one of the pillars of the DC comics universe. It, too, has good IMDb scores (7.5 on 106K reviews) and always does well on TV Time, though it tends to miss the ratings charts, as it missed both Nielsen and Showlabs this week. (Notably, it was a casualty of the “great Zaslav content cuts of 2022” so this is its last season. If you want to know why viewership reigns supreme over TV Time, IMDb and social media data, this is why!)

  • Congratulations (though tepid congrats) to Transatlantic for escaping the “dogs not barking” fate and instead merely moving into “likely a pricey miss”) territory by popping on the Nielsen charts in its second week with 5.5 million hours. Meanwhile, Star Trek: Picard is officially the first Paramount+ TV series to make the Nielsen charts for two weeks! This doesn’t really count as a record, since Paramount+ just joined the Nielsen charts in March. But still, it happened. Meanwhile, Ted Lasso has grown its ratings in its third season. Actually, the last two weeks The Mandalorian saw an uptick in the ratings as well, up to 17 million per week or so. Meanwhile, Unstable fell off after only two weeks on the charts, so it too is a miss. Beef had a big bounce into the second week. Does it have a “binge release curve” in its future?

  • A pretty steady week over on the “acquired” Nielsen charts, as it is most weeks. Succession continues to grow its audience on HBO Max, which matches the “datecdotes” that HBO Max has been putting out. (See the “Datecdote of the Week” below for more.)


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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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