To IP or Not to IP? Should Amazon Have Spent $300 Million on Citadel? And Should Peter Pan & Wendy Have Gone To Theaters?

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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.)

Most normal people get excited when TV shows come out. But me, I get excited when the ratings for those shows come out four weeks later. (That’s how long Nielsen delays their ratings.) I’ve been eagerly waiting for this week, in particular, because we have two very juicy titles that I just couldn’t find out how well they did:

Citadel on Prime Video

Peter Pan & Wendy on Disney+

One is maybe the second most expensive first season TV show in history (a rumored $300 million) and the other is a Disney remake that probably should have ventured to theatrical Neverland instead of straight-to-streaming Pirates Island. So how did they do? Let’s find out, plus, Netflix released another batch of episodes for Firefly Lane and the second season of Sweet Tooth. That’s a big week for content!

Before that, a note on colors! I don’t usually clarify this each week, but every streamer gets their own color each week. Whenever you see different colors in the bar charts, that’s why. I’d add, for charts showing multiple weeks of data, I use lighter and lighter shades to signify later weeks. Here’s my color schemes:

Of course, this made a lot more sense before HBO Max went and switched from purple to a color that’s right in-between Paramount+ and Disney+. 

Am I going to change Max’s color scheme them? No chance. Purple stands out way better and Max is stuck with it!

On to the ratings…

(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 April 24th to April 30th.)

Television – Citadel, Big Budget Shows and My Thoughts on Original IP

Let’s be blunt:

  • Prime Video released two episodes of a new TV show, Citadel on Friday 28-April. Rumors place it as costing upwards of $300 million for six (only 40 minute) episodes of TV and comes from famed directors, the Russo Bros.
  • Citadel missed the Nielsen ratings its first weekend out of the gate.
  • That’s bad.

Now, Amazon anticipated me saying this. So of course they went to Deadline, who provided us this headline:

But you have to dig a little bit to see why they think it’s a success [bolding mine]:

Citadel, the long-in-the-works global spy thriller drama from Amazon Studios and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO, is eyeing the biggest debut for a series on the streamer based on original IP…According to a source close to the production, Citadel follows only Prime Video’s LOTR: Rings Of Power in launch numbers since its April 28 debut. Rings of Power premiered Sept. 1 with more 25 million viewers in its first day, Amazon said at the time.’

Another Amazon “datecdote”! Let’s update the chart:

I mean, okay. I’m a pinch more skeptical on Citadel’s ratings because Amazon themselves didn’t put it out in a press release. Anything on a company’s social media or official PR channels they are liable to shareholders for being accurate; leaks they are not.

What about the “original IP” clarification? Honestly, it’s not a bad point. Indeed, Netflix has made this point as well about their stuff: we can’t just reboot and remake all our content, so we should be evaluated on a slightly different standard. It’s tough getting audiences to watch new things! 

One of the problems is that we use “IP”—short for intellectual property, in case someone who reads me doesn’t know that—a little too loosely. IP can be anything from a previous film or TV show, to a book, comic book, graphic novel, feature film or heck, a theme park ride. Arguably, films based on memes or Twitter feeds or soon to be TikTok feeds aren’t “original” either. Heck, is stuff based on historical events really “original”? 

So let’s provide a framework for IP, and how I think about it:

  1. Sequels, prequels, and spinoffs of existing film and TV franchises/universes.
  2. Reboots, remakes, and re-imaginings of films and TV series.
  3. IP based on published material (books, video games, comics, etc) that is very popular.
  4. IP based on published material that isn’t popular.

I like these categories, because a truly staggering amount of TV shows and movies are derived from one of those four categories. Especially category four, which I would point out, a lot of times, really doesn’t matter. Indeed, I wrote those four categories in their descending value: a new Marvel TV series has a much higher ceiling than a movie based on an indie comic book.

Seriously: some of these comic books or novels that films are derived from have readership in the tens of thousands. Three of the big family films that Disney+ is removing this week (The One and Only Ivan, Flora & Ulysses, and Timmy Failure) were based on hit kids books that came out in 2012 and 2013). Pre-existing literary material is not enough to guarantee a hit, is it?

And when we look at Citadel, we can say that, yes, it truly is an original story. Does that mean we should hold it to a lower standard? Not really. Original IP breaks out more than you would think. Here’s the top 25 shows in total viewership on Nielsen, broken out by those four IP categories, with a fifth “none”:

And here’s the share by streamer:

In this case, it’s mixed. Some huge shows are absolutely based on IP (Wednesday is category two, Dahmer – Monster is category three, the Marvel shows are class one, and so on) but some were original or category four, which again barely counts. (Squid Game being the biggest; Tiger King was category four, based on a magazine article/true life story; Bridgerton was NOT a huge book series before the show catapulted it back onto the charts.) 

I’d add this data also breaks up some myths: Netflix would likely make more category 1 and 2 IP shows if they could, and indeed two of their biggest hits were based on preexisting films. (Wednesday and The Lincoln Lawyer) That said, let’s not go too far. To really judge the value of IP, we’d need to evaluate all the misses of the year, and I don’t have time for that today.

My strategic takeaway? If I ran a studio, I’d certainly embrace some IP, but when it comes to spending big dollars acquiring IP (especially literary material or unpopular IP), I’d just develop original stories in house. (Or buy spec scripts from smart creators.)

Looking at Citadel’s Ratings Specifically: Was It a Hit? Did It Justify Its Massive Budget?

Read the rest of the Streaming Ratings Report to find out…

– How Citadel did on the ratings charts.
– Find out the ratings for Firefly Lane, Workin’ Moms, and season three of Sweet Tooth.
– What new sitcom made the HBO Max Showlabs charts
– The Dogs Not Barking of the week, including a buzzy reboot of a 1980s classic.
– And how well Peter Pan & Wendy performed.
– and even more.

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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