(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.)
Cards on the table, in August, I had a thesis:
The strikes were going to slow down the number of new streaming TV shows coming out each week.
After six months of close-to-zero film and TV show production, I figured that we’d see a slow down in the number of new, scripted American TV shows coming out each week. Maybe true crime docs, foreign TV shows and reality shows would take up some of the slack, but not all of it. And in one week in August, the number of new shows dropped down to sixteen new shows, an all-time low (according my informal release tracker. It seems easy to answer the question, “How many shows come out each year?” But it depends a whole lot on what “counts” as a show.).
Since then, my thesis has NOT come to pass. In one week in September, we had the second most new titles I’d ever tracked. Or just look at this week’s SRR double issue.
- For the week of 9-Oct, we had five buzzy, big new scripted TV shows: Frasier, Goosebumps, The Fall of the House of Usher, Doom Patrol and Lessons in Chemistry.
- For the week of 16-Oct, same thing: Upload, Big Mouth, and Bosch: Legacy.
If there’s a content slowdown, I can’t see it yet. (And based on the next three weeks, it’s not coming any time soon.)
That’s good news for someone who dives deep into the ratings every week. This week I have a double issue for you, so we’ve got a lot to cover, looking at The Fall of the House of Usher’s big week (with some question marks), The Burial on Prime Video, R-rated comedies on streaming, the “default” streamer, big linear ratings for another genre that hasn’t made its way to streaming yet, a whole bunch of big, buzzy TV shows that flopped and bombed, and more.
(Due to Thanksgiving this week, I’m going to skip a week again and publish a double issue after that…)
(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 October 9th to October 22nd.)
Television – The Super Long Post-Production Timelines of Streaming
Let’s start with a quick rant.
I’ve mostly given up on trying to debunk the notion Netflix doesn’t “make its customers wait” for new episodes of their favorite shows. I’m not trying re-litigate the “binge versus weekly releases” debate—again, I’m moderate on it; some customers prefer the binge-release and an equal amount prefer weekly—but the idea that a binge release means “customers don’t have to wait for new episodes”; it’s just patently wrong.
What is true is that customers don’t know that they’re waiting for their shows. And that could be pitched as a legitimate customer benefit. Viewers know a lot less about the ins and outs of Hollywood than a lot of executives and pundits assume. That includes what shows and films are coming to streaming and when. Most customers don’t know what TV shows they’re missing until they actually come out.
That said, objectively speaking, if you’re releasing six, eight or ten episodes at once, streamers have to wait for all of those episodes to be completely finished before streaming them. Meaning the streamers are holding those episodes, customers just don’t realize it, unlike a weekly release, where episodes can come out sooner. But that’s not all! In a global world, US customers also have to wait for the global translations, dubbing and subtitling to be finished before they get to watch the latest season of their favorite show.
Why bring this up when I’ve mostly given trying to convince people of this very basic fact? Because this report covers the weeks of 9-Oct and 16-Oct…a full five months since all production stopped in the America. And yet we had a few big, big American-made, scripted shows come out this week:
- The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix
- Frasier on Paramount+
- Goosebumps on Disney+/Hulu
If you want to know how long a “binge release”-style of distribution makes customers wait, the strikes are helping reveal it. Those are three big series that had to have wrapped production by May, and yet we’re just now getting their episodes. Yes, in some cases, the streamers probably both rushed to get the shows finished in case of a strike, and deliberately spaced out their content due to the strike, which could have happened with Frasier.
But sitting on shows for months on end is the streaming standard, not the exception. (Compare this to the broadcast era, when the timeframe between finishing an episode and airing it was weeks, not months and months. The quickest turnaround I can think of was South Park, which became famous for getting episodes out in a week.) Disney and Netflix probably always planned on releasing Goosebumps and The Fall of the House of Usher right before Halloween, but that’s still a long time to wait!
Indeed, now that the strikes have wrapped up, the broadcasters are rushing to get their shows back on air. Night Court is already filming and dozens of broadcast shows are set to restart production in the next few weeks; CBS announced plans to bring their shows back in February. That’s really fast compared to streaming timelines.
Any takeaways for all of this? This does feel like a nightmare for writers and actors and talent who work on these streaming shows, having to wait four, five or six months after finishing a show before they even find out if what they worked on actually resonates with audiences, or if they’ll have another job. It helps explain many writers’ frustrations that boiled over earlier this year.
The Ratings for These Shows We’ve Waited Months For
So how did these long-awaited-though-you-didn’t-know-it shows do? Pretty well!
Actually, Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher did better than well. Through two weeks at 20.5 and 24.5 million hours, that’s good for the 14th biggest launch though two weeks among all streaming season ones in my dataset. It also did well on the TV Time charts (getting to fourth place) and Samba TV’s Top Ten list (getting to second place overall). It’s IMDb scores are excellent as well, an 8.0 on 71K reviews without an upvote campaign.
I should clarify, while the Nielsen and IMDb numbers show an “elite” show, some of the other metrics don’t look as great. For example, at 5.8 and then 6.9 million unique viewers on Showlabs in its first two weeks, that wouldn’t actually crack the top 25 streaming debuts on that measurement. Queen Charlotte, in contrast, had 14.1 million unique viewers in its second week. Beef had 8.4 million unique viewers in its first week and peaked at 15.7 million in its second week. Heck, even Resident Evil got up to 8.5 million viewers. And those shows aren’t even the top of the Showlabs charts, as shows like Dahmer – Monster, Stranger Things, Squid Game and even Ginny & Georgia reached over 20 million unique viewers in a given week.
Samba TV provided a datecdote that 790K households watched The Fall of the House of Usher in the first four days, but a million households tends to be the minimum threshold for success for Netflix.
Putting these various numbers together, the best explanation for the high viewership total, but low unique viewers, is that The Fall of the House of Usher likely had a very good completion rate. But its ceiling was limited as some customers just don’t want watch horror. The horror fans do, though, want to watch it all. And quickly!
Goosebumps also did well for Disney, but didn’t shatter records, despite some PR spin to the contrary. Disney released this series on both Disney+ and Hulu, which makes it a bit harder to compare “apples-to-apples” to other series, but at two weeks of 9.2 and 9.9 million hours, that’s better than Loki over the same time period, even though the latter series is on its second season. And yes, Disney+ gave us another datecdote that, at 4.2 million views, this is their most-watched “Disney-branded TV” series of the year, and only trails Monsters at Work from 2021 among Disney-branded TV shows. (This is Disney’s language, to be clear. I presume it means not Marvel, Star Wars or National Geographic series.)
After dropping five episodes in the first week, Disney will release episodes weekly after that, so we’ll see how it performs for the rest of October.
That leaves the Frasier reboot, a series that, to be frank, should have just gone to broadcast television, then went to streaming…
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