Young Sheldon Takes Over While the Streamers Go “PG” on Film

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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 hope everyone had a happy, hopefully relaxing and uneventful holiday break, in spite of the burst of headlines (A Netflix data drop! A possible merger between two legacy studios!) right before Christmas break.

As a reminder, as happened last year, this week and next week’s Streaming Ratings Reports will cover two weeks each. (Looking at both my time and internet traffic, it doesn’t make sense to release a Streaming Ratings Report right before or after Christmas.) This week’s issue covers the end of November (the weeks starting 20-Nov and 27-Nov). Next week, I’ll tackle the first two weeks of December, and then we’ll return to our normal schedule.

We’re finally starting to see the impacts of the strikes on new streaming shows, since the last two weeks of December were some of the slowest weeks I’ve ever seen. Trust me, I’ll do my best to dive into the numbers and maybe try to compare it to past years.

For now, we’ve got a ton of stuff to dig into, especially looking at (what can be) one of the biggest weekends for streaming each year, Thanksgiving. The theme of the week is big, buzzy family and kids films (Leo, Candy Cane Lane, A Bad Guys Christmas, and more), along with some breakout TV shows, like Squid Game: The Challenge and Young Sheldon.

Let’s dig 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 November 20th to December 3rd.)

Film – Here Come the PG Movies…

A few streamers put out some family films to win Thanksgiving weekend or the first week of December, including…

  • Netflix: Leo, an animated film starring Adam Sandler and Bill Burr.
  • Peacock: Genie, a holiday film where Melissa McCarthy plays a genie.
  • Prime Video: Candy Cane Lane, a holiday film starring Eddie Murphy.
  • Netflix: Family Switch, a live-action holiday family film starring Jennifer Garner.

All four of these titles have PG ratings and fantastical/magical elements. Three (Genie, Candy Cane Lane and Family Switch) take place at Christmas. Tis the season!

The winner is fairly clearly Leo from Netflix, which shot out the gate to 25.4 million hours on release. That was enough to have Netflix declare it their biggest kids launch since The Sea Beast in a rare global datecdote boast, but it did drop down to 14.3 million hours in week two. Leo also differed from most Netflix film releases in that it came out on a Tuesday to prepare for Thanksgiving weekend and kids/families being at home. (Almost every Netflix film comes out on Fridays, though there are exceptions.) It was the second biggest kids or family title for next through two weeks:

So it’s good for Netflix, but lags well behind other animated titles from Disney. (Encanto had nearly 60 million hours through two weeks.) Indeed, Lightyear had an opening week of 21.8 million and a second week of 11.7 million hours, and I think we (i.e. Hollywood/the Hollywood press) all universally agreed that film was a big miss, right? A difference of seven million hours (Leo’s 40 million to Lightyear’s 33 million) isn’t enough to declare one film a smash and the other a bomb, especially when one service is much bigger than the other.

(Yes, this is where budgets do come into play. Did Lightyear cost more than Leo? Probably, but it’s not like Adam Sandler comes cheap either. Unlike most theatrical films, Netflix’s budgets tend not to get leaked or estimated.)

Speaking of box office, Leo did get over $2.5 million in global box office. Yay Netflix!

This one also had good IMDb reviews for a Netflix animated films with a 7.0 on over 26K reviews.

The other family films didn’t come close to Leo, but since they’re live-action family films, that’s not too surprising. Family Switch had 13.9 million hours after its Thursday opening, Candy Cane Lane had 13.4 million hours after its Friday opening, and Genie had 6.8 million hours after its Wednesday release.

All three made the Samba TV Top Ten charts as well, with the most surprising being Genie, given Peacock’s small size. For Peacock, 6 million hours is in the middle for a Peacock opening, behind Five Nights at Freddy’s, The Super Mario Bros Movie and Halloween Ends, but ahead of most other theatrical titles.

As for Candy Cane Lane, it did fine for Amazon. It’s well behind The Tomorrow War, Shotgun Wedding and Coming 2 America, but ahead of Without Remorse, Air and The Burial. 

This may surprise some readers since Amazon certainly released a datecdote that made it sound like the biggest film in Prime Video history. But reading closely they had some (okay, a lot) caveats. Amazon clarified that Candy Cane Lane was the “biggest ‘Amazon MGM Studios’-produced title of all time in the US”, besting Red, White and Blue. (Another datecdote I missed!) The key distinction is that Amazon didn’t produce Coming 2 America, The Terminal List or Shotgun Wedding; they bought those from other major studios. (They added MGM to Amazon Studios, apparently too.) Here’s all my “datecdotes” from Amazon for film (they have a lot more for TV):

Overall, I prefer the actual Nielsen numbers—which tell the same story, but with more specificity—over vague and manipulated corporate datecdotes.

As for IMDb scores, these three films didn’t light the world on fire, with a 5.9 for Genie, a 5.6 Family Switch and a 5.6 for Candy Cane Lane. Again, especially at this time of year, I like all these swings, assuming they’re made for the right price, but you have to get the quality right. Getting IMDb scores below a six, while more common for family films, isn’t great. Though saying, “Just make good movies, duh!” is much easier than doing it! That’s the whole trick to the entertainment biz!

Quick Notes on Film

  • Prime Video’s sports documentary, Bye Bye Barry, did okay. It missed the Nielsen charts, but it made Samba TV’s Top Ten for the week of 20-Nov. That’s an interesting divergence we don’t see too often, and my only guess is that the Nielsen charts—which use total hours—were swamped by kids films that week due to the T-giving holiday in America.

  • Disney also had a fairly big miss. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny came out on 1-Dec, a rare Friday release for the House of Mouse’s streamer and at only 8.9 million hours in its opening weekend, it’s second-to-last for Disney live-action releases. For this film, I just think the week domestic box office ($174 million, despite having Fourth of July weekend) and only a 6.6 on IMDb (on a huge 174K reviews) presaged a poor streaming debut. Now, I have a feeling some folks at Disney streaming will look at the numbers and say, “See, a long gap between a theatrical run and a streaming release hurts streaming numbers!”, but I’m skeptical of that correlation, though we do NOT have a lot of data to go on. Only a handful of titles had very large gaps between streaming and theaters, like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, and it clearly didn’t impact the latter title. Top Gun: Maverick only had 9 million hours on its debut, and while that’s small for streaming, it’s still Paramount+’s biggest film. Instead, I think box office is correlated to streaming outcomes, a point I hope to quantify when I publish my next update on “Release Your Films to Theaters”.

  • As for The Super Mario Bros. Movie coming to Netflix, since it came out on a Sunday, we’ll look at it next week. (It’s been nine months since it came to theaters, and that likely won’t impact its streaming totals.)
  • Netflix’s The Killer ended up only having a two week run on the Nielsen charts, so it did not catch on. Same for Netflix’s Christmas film Best. Christmas. Ever! which only lasted two weeks on the charts as well. Same for Warner Bros./Max’s Blue Beetle. So yeah, Thanksgiving weekend took the air out of those early November releases.

  • We also had our usual collection of “library” titles showing up on either the Nielsen, Showlabs or the Samba TV charts. The biggest was probably Hunter Killer, a 2018 war/action film that made $15 million domestically. It made the Nielsen and Samba TV top ten lists. The Silencing and She’s The Man made the Netflix Showlabs charts for one week…

  • …as did The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife for Prime Video

  • (These are the sorts of titles that when you look up the DVD sales it just sort of baffles you. On a $20 million budget, She’s the Man made $33 million in domestic theaters…and added $35 million on DVD! The Hitman’s Bodyguard did $18 million in home entertainment. Seriously, the entertainment industry will miss those revenue streams when they’re gone and streaming alone doesn’t come close to replacing them.)
  • Looking at the film charts, a deluge of Christmas titles are coming, including three Warner Bros-controlled films that they shared with Hulu this Christmas season, Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Polar Express. Elf and Christmas Vacation have made the top ten lists before, but The Polar Express hadn’t, so I think the Hulu distribution helped boost viewership. After the holidays, I plan to check in on all these Christmas titles. (The Grinch looks to do well for Peacock as well, as will the stalwart Home Alone for Disney.) Dreamworks-via-Netflix’s holiday special, The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday, made the Samba TV and Showlabs charts too.
  • For the week of 20-Nov, the miss/flop of the week is probably Good Burger 2, which made the TV Time charts, but that’s about it. I’m really curious to know how well this film actually performed in terms of ratings, but it’s probably not a pricey miss. Also, I’m not sure if this movie should have gone to theaters, since it seems small and probably wasn’t worth the needed theatrical marketing push.
  • There were two really big misses/flops for the week starting 27-Nov, but they couldn’t be more different. Netflix’s very-buzzy, very-critically-acclaimed awards contender, May December, made the TV Time charts, but nothing else, not even Netflix’s own global charts. This movie is a terrific example of two things. First, buzz does not equal ratings. Four or five years ago, most people would have assumed that this film was a huge hit/win for Netflix, based on countless critics putting it on their top ten lists. (Seriously, my researcher has listened to four or five “Best Films of 2023” podcast episodes and he said at least seven critics had it as a top ten movie of the year.) But now in the streaming ratings era, we know that this film, like many awards contenders, wasn’t really seen by all that many people. Second point: we will, at some point, find out how well May December actually did globally, and by “at some point”, I mean six months from now when Netflix does its next global data drop. But even then, we’ll only have a month or so worth of data, and we’ll have to wait a full year to find out if this film got a bump from the Oscars.
  • Next, Universal’s incredibly pricey box office bomb, The Exorcist: Believer, made the TV Time interest charts, but nothing else. Even though this film was a huge flop, it’s a bit complicated, since it made $136 million globally on a $30 million budget, so it did okay at the box office. But since it cost $400 million to acquire the rights, this “franchise” will not make its money back.

  • The “Dogs Not Barking” for the week of 20-Nov include Hulu’s pseudo-documentary Cypher, Netflix’s documentary Stamped From the Beginning and stand-up special Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool (since this was based on a successful broadway show, I figured this might do better), Apple TV+’s Hannah Weddingham: Home for Christmas and The Velveteen Rabbit, Paramount+’s The Choice is Yours, and Disney+’s first Doctor Who special, Doctor Who: The Star Beast.
  • For the week starting 27-Nov, Disney+’s short, The Shepherd, failed to chart, and so did Netflix’s Jon Batiste American Symphony, which I also expected to do better. And Disney+ had two misses in Timeless Heroes: Indiana Jones & Harrison Ford and the second Doctor Who special, Doctor Who: Wild Blue Yonder.

Television – Netflix Has a New Hit Sitcom (From Warner Bros/CBS/Max)

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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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