What to Hurt The Witcher and Jack Ryan in the Ratings?

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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. Subscribe here.)

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I was in the hospital for a few days last week so the streaming ratings report took a one week break. That means this week is a double issue. I also have a pre-planned vacation next week, so I’ll be skipping next week’s issue too. Don’t worry, I have some articles pre-written for next week, and they’re super juicy. (It’s all of the flops, misses and bombs of the year so far!)

Fortunately, the last week of June (the week starting 26-June) and the first week of July (the week staring 3-July, so the two weeks covering the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S.) were light on new titles, but did have a few heavy hitters (like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Prime Video, and The Witcher and The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix), so let’s dive right in.

(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 June 26th to July 9th.)

Television – The Witcher vs Jack Ryan & Long Lead Times & Summer Doldrums

Over the two week period that we’re covering (26-June to 9-July), three fairly notable streaming titles returned:

  • The Witcher (Part one of its third season, on Netflix, on 29-June)
  • Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (Its fourth season, on Prime Video, with two episodes coming out each week for three weeks)
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (Its second season, also on Netflix and also being split into two parts)

The story is that all three did well:

But clever readers may think that those numbers are good but not great. Indeed, both The Witcher and Jack Ryan saw big ratings declines from their previous seasons.

Which begs some interesting questions. Why did The Witcher and Jack Ryan go down in viewership for their latest seasons? Did the Fourth of July weekend lose its magic? Is it just that they released fewer episodes than last time? Or is summer to blame? Or the length of time between seasons?

So now it’s time to play ratings detective.

To start, the drop between seasons for The Witcher and Jack Ryan is legitimate; The Witcher dropped from over 80 million hours in its first two weeks in December of 2021 down to 42 million hours this summer. Jack Ryan went from over 58 million hours down in its first two weeks last December to 19 million hours.

One explanation might be that both shows dropped fewer episodes this time around. Last time, The Witcher binge-released eight episodes; this time it released five. Jack Ryan dropped from eight episodes last December to just four in its first two weeks.

But fewer episodes doesn’t fully explain this ratings drop. (In a past analysis, Samba TV mentioned that, at most, 50% of viewers are binge-watchers.) Overall viewers are also down. Samba TV shows that both shows had a decline in in household viewership:

Those are slight drops, so maybe it’s a simple equation: less episodes + slightly less viewers = way fewer total hours viewed.

My theory for that slight drop in total viewers? It’s summer. And TV viewership goes down during the summer, as I wrote in The Ankler last year and in this report a few weeks ago. There’s a reason that, historically, the broadcast channels took the summer seasons off and ran reruns.

Of course, in the streaming ratings era, we may have forgotten this lesson. In 2020, Hamilton’s had absolutely bonkers Fourth of July ratings. (Though we didn’t find out about this until last year.) Meanwhile, in 2021, Luca smashed ratings again for Disney+ over Fourth of July with The Tomorrow War. So did The Terminal List’s strong launch with ratings monster Stranger Things last year. This may have fooled people into thinking that the summer doldrums no longer exist.

Since Jack Ryan and The Witcher last came out in December, one of streaming’s best months in terms of viewership, maybe the drop is natural.

There could be other factors at play. Maybe The Witcher, having taken two years off between seasons, just lost fan interest. (Then again, the last season of Jack Ryan came out six months ago! And The Lincoln Lawyer came out fourteen months ago. Regardless, if I ran a streamer, I’d try to get my shows on yearly schedule.) Maybe The Witcherfans really are mad that Henry Cavill is leaving the show? I usually argue that online buzz doesn’t matter, but Netflix even ran a billboard (in Hollywood) about this issue. Even The Witcher’s spin-off from last December bombed.

Looking at other data points, both The Witcher and Jack Ryan had shorter runs on TV Time for big titles:

Then again, we’re in the realm of small sample sizes here. After all, The Lincoln Lawyer increased its viewership season over season, up over 8 million more hours. One final note: I’m not sure if The Lincoln Lawyer is a procedural—I don’t think it is—but I’m assured by the fans of the show that I know that the main character takes on lots of cases and clients…just like traditional procedurals. So maybe it’s “procedural-lite”.

The other phenomenon worth mentioning is that both The Witcher and The Lincoln Lawyer are being released in “batches”. (Meaning two sets of episodes, around four to six episodes, a month or more apart.) And I just can’t help wondering what happens if this trend continues. Does Netflix consider making, say, a few more episodes per season, then release them in three or four batches? If they did this with a traditional cop or doctor show, then all of a sudden you’d have a streaming calendar that looks an awful lot like broadcast releases of old.

Just saying.

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The rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so please subscribe. To read more about…

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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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