Real or Not? Apple TV+’s Latest Run of Streaming “Hits”

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(Welcome to my weekly streaming ratings report, the single best guide to what is popular in streaming TV and what isn’t. I’m the Entertainment Strategy Guy, a former streaming executive who now analyzes business strategy in the entertainment industry. If you were forwarded this email, please subscribe to get these insights each week.)


I’ve been thinking about AI a lot, and might write a future article on it because, let’s be honest, it’s a potentially, gigantically, enormously, tremendously huge issue. (One sentence summary: I’m very worried it replaces a lot more jobs than it creates.) While I’m genuinely terrified of AI replacing anyone who types words for a living—like me!—the biggest impediment to AI dominance seems to be the issue of “hallucinations”, where the ghosts in the AI machines just make up wholesale lies to satisfy their queries. That seems bad.

Of course, I was thinking about this because last week I made a few mistakes in my streaming ratings report. These weren’t “hallucinations”, just good old fashioned mistakes. Writing these reports each—especially when your kids are sick for three of the last five weeks—I’m often pulling together a lot of data often on a tight timeline, so mistakes can happen, even if I start writing, researching and compiling this report three days earlier. Like…

  • I wrote that The Mother on Netflix came out on a Thursday. It didn’t; it came out on a Friday. 
  • I wrote Rick and Morty came to Hulu “day-after-air”, which was not the case for season six. I should have checked on that. (But it is available online on Adult Swim apps/websites day-after-air.)
  • Oh, and I had the wrong release week date on the Nielsen Top Ten charts.

D’oh! Three mistakes in one week is a bit high for me. (And thank you to the two people who notified me about the first two points.) My goal is to have about a 98% accuracy rate in my charts, data and narrative. If I strove for perfection, this report just couldn’t go out weekly.

Why tell you this? To build some trust. It might be better to pretend I’m perfect, but we all know that isn’t true. And that’s why about twice a year I try to evaluate what I got right, what I got wrong and any mistakes I made.(See here, here or here!) The next edition of that article should come in July, so if you know of any major (or minor) mistakes I made, send them to me. (I do mean mistakes, not disagreements with my opinions/strategy recommendations.) As a reminder, I read every email and love getting the feedback, even if I don’t have time to respond to each one.

On to another fun week of new movies and TV shows including an Apple TV+ check in, the first TV show spinoff of a streaming film, three more data points for the “Straight-to-streaming or theatrical” debate, the (lack of data) for White Men Can’t Jump, the return of Selling Sunset, my initial thoughts on S.W.A.T., plus High Desert, Primo, the misses/flops of the week, and 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 May 15th to May 21st.)

Television – Real or Not: Apple TV+’s Recent String of “Hits”

Apple TV+ is having a successful 2023…in the context of Apple TV+. So successful, they let us know—you probably guessed it—via Deadline. Here you go:

An “all time” viewership high! I guess that means we can update our Apple TV+ datecdotes chart? Though it’s still fairly sparse:

That would be a turnaround from February, when I saw headlines like this:

Does the streaming data match Apple TV+’s datecdote? I’d say somewhat, with the big caveat that Apple TV+ is just…small. Very, very small. Hence why Deadline didn’t provide any, you know, real numbers.

Apple TV+ does best in the TV Time data. (I’ll be touching on some film data points in this mini-dive as well.) Just look at last week, when Apple TV+ put five titles on the two charts:

Indeed, I made a chart of Apple TV+’s TV Time scores—“scores” is calculated by adding up the ranking on the chart, in reverse value (first place is ten points, second place is nine) for each week something is on the charts; so two weeks at the third spot on the charts is a score of 16—and I arranged it by “quarter” to show the uptick:

Basically, Ted Lasso is a giant hit and they’ve had some other shows do well recently. And if you squint, the last two quarters do look like a genuine rise in interest. Now, I do think Apple TV+ will perform a pinch better on TV Time, since a service like TV Time exists to answer the question “Where is this thing?” and if that “where” is “Apple TV+”, a lot of people don’t know where those shows are. Answering this question is less useful for users of Netflix, since Netflix is many folks first TV stop. 

Still, as you can see, between new shows like The Last Thing He Told Me and Silo, and some good film performances, yeah, Apple TV+ has done a bit better recently. But does this translate to the other data points we track? 

I mean, not Nielsen ratings. Ted Lasso is still their biggest hit, and they’ve only had a smattering of films make the charts. 

Samba TV tells a similar story:

That’s the thing with Apple TV+: yes, they’ve had a slightly better start to 2023. For them. I think their internal usage matches this data. But they’re spending a fortune on content, mostly scripted and original, and they still don’t have a library, so just being “better than 2022” still might mean they’re losing oodles on their service. Or the worst case scenario is that Ted Lasso is simply their biggest hit.

I mean, just this week—again, the week of 15-May—Apple TV+ released another expensive, but niche show in High Desert, starring Patricia Arquette, a noir mystery set in the desert. Did it make any of the ratings I track? No, so it’s the “Dog Not Barking” of the week.

Bottom line: sure, Apple TV+ has been doing well. Most of that comes from Ted Lasso, and a few other titles have generated some buzz. To justify their massive spending, though, they need way more hits than just Ted Lasso, a show that may or may not come back for a fourth season.

Quick Notes on TV

– We had a “first” in the streaming wars this week, as we got a TV show based on a streaming original movie. In this case, XO, Kitty starring Anna Cathcart, who reprises her role from To All The Boys franchise. Having seen this coming up on some of the TV Time charts, I expected some big-ish numbers and was a pinch disappointed when it only ended dup with 6.1 million hours in its first week even though it came out on a Thursday. Samba TV wasn’t much better with only 371K households watching in the first four days, definitely a low number for Netflix. Showlabs had the best data point—12.8 million households in the first week—but even then that’s not as big as a lot of huge hits. If you want to reply to me, “Hey, it’s a YA show”, fair! But this is a good reminder that outside of some huge YA giants (The Hunger Games and Twilight in film; Wednesday in TV), most YA content has a clear ceiling.

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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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