Percy Jackson and Dr. Death are Hits, But We Might Have One of the Biggest Streaming Misses of All Time

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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.)


A few years back, I coined the term “The New Sweeps” (though I’ve also called it “Streaming Sweeps Week”) to describe the weeks before and after Christmas on streaming. Historically, the day after Christmas in America (and most of Europe) is when lots of families get new tablets, phones, video game consoles and, most importantly, TVs. Then they turn on these TVs—which are mostly “smart”—and download or check out the pre-installed applications, making Christmas an excellent time to grab new customers and hook them to your streamer. This results in big subscriber acquisition days for all the streamers.

And what better way to grab these new viewers than with big, splashy content? 

As such, we’ve seen Netflix release some high profile films, like Don’t Look Up or their Knives Out sequel. Disney released Soul straight-to-streaming the week of Christmas in 2020, and Strange World and Encanto both came to Disney+ the week before Christmas after debuting in theaters in November (which worked in one case and failed horribly in the other). Paramount+ dropped Top Gun: Maverick in December last year too, and Max timed Barbie’s release for the week before Christmas this year. Max had previously released Wonder Woman 1984 to huge numbers during Christmas of 2020.

The difference, though, between streaming sweeps and traditional broadcast sweeps is that it’s hard to launch new TV shows during the week after Christmas, because many families re-watch holiday classics, people are out and about with family, and, crucially, many media members take the last two weeks of the year off—which they should!—which is why broadcasters traditionally waited until the start of the new year to release new TV shows. Thus the streamers tend to be selective in their releases, opting for quality over quantity.

This year, like everything “2023-related”, the New Sweeps were muted by the strikes, meaning we saw even fewer new films and shows than in years past. We still had some buzzy releases—Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+, Rebel Moon: Part 1 on Netflix and Dr. Death on Peacock; Prime Video released Reacher the week prior—but it still felt light.

So did the push for subscribers work? In two cases yes, in one case no. Let’s dive in to find out which is which and a whole lot 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 December 18th to December 24th.)

Television – Percy Jackson and Dr. Death Hit…

With Percy Jackson and the Olympians—Disney’s new take on the popular YA-book-series-then-semi-popular-film-franchise originally produced by, not surprising, 20th Century Fox—Disney+ has what looks like their first genuine non-Marvel, non-Star Wars hit, which is a big deal if you’re Disney.

Here’s Disney+’s season one releases that have made the Nielsen charts and you can see Percy Jackson with over 9.5 million hours:

Previously, only three non-Marvel/non-Star Wars shows have made the Nielsen charts: The Santa Clauses, The Beatles: Get Back documentary, and National Treasure: Edge of History. Percy Jackson, by making it in its first week with only two episodes—though those episodes came out on a Tuesday and episode one appeared on both Hulu and Disney+ simultaneously—cleared that low bar. But it also made the Samba TV Top Ten charts for multiple weeks as well:

That’s a sign that Percy Jackson will have legs; I can’t wait to see how many weeks it stays on the Nielsen charts. It also has strong IMDb scores—an 7.4 on 18K reviews—already, though the fans of the show have clearly “up-voted” it. Samba TV also provided a datecdote, telling us that it had 900K viewers in the first six days, which definitely trails those bigger Star Wars or Marvel films like Ahsoka (1.6M over the same time), Loki (2.5 million in only five days) and She-Hulk (1.5 million in four days). The Beatles: Get Out had 470K in its first four days. So Percy Jackson lags the Marvel/Star Wars shows (which makes sense), but did better than The Beatles.

Lastly—and I only do this for comprehensiveness—Disney also provided a “datecdote”, telling us that the first episode was watched 13.3 million times in its first six days, and then was watched 26 million times in its first three weeks, and all episodes had eclipsed 10 million views. Here’s how that stacks up:

The second season of Dr. Death on Peacock also charted on Nielsen this week. As I’ve said about Peacock before, getting anything on the ratings charts is a win, even if, at 5.0 million hours, that’s on the low side for all of TV.

Really, the bigger win for Peacock is having a new series, that clearly has some fan interest, come out right as they start rolling out their streaming-only NFL games over the end of December and start of January. All the talk was about the NFL’s first ever streaming-only playoff game (my coverage, with context, will be coming in a SRR in a couple of weeks) but not as many people realize that Peacock streamed a Saturday football game on 23-Dec. It actually netted 6 million viewers (after accounting for local, linear viewers), which made it the fourth highest show, film or special on streaming this week.

Here’s how that stacks up to other streaming football shows (meaning the Amazon Thursday Night Football games!):

The fact that Peacock’s NFL ratings are so close to Prime Video’s is pretty impressive, given Peacock’s smaller size. And the lack of media coverage of this is equally notable. With even a minor hit like Dr. Death, Peacock now has something to try to keep those one-time subscribers around for a little longer. We’ll see if it works.

Quick Notes on TV

The rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so please subscribe. If you’d like to find out…

  • What new, buzzy Netflix film may be one of the biggest duds I’ve tracked.
  • Whether Oscar bait like Saltburn and Maestro resonated with audiences… 
  • If Reacher can hold onto it’s top spot on the TV charts…
  • What sport gave us a “record” in streaming back in November…
  • Which new Marvel show missed the charts…
  • A record-setting week on the Nielsen charts for streaming films…
  • And 22 more charts, graphs and tables to understand the streaming wars…

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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