(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.)
Welcome to 2024.
Sure, I’m a few weeks late to the party, but as I remind folks most weeks, Nielsen reviews their streaming ratings data for four weeks before publishing it, so we’ve only just turned the calendar to the new year, the week starting 1-January-2024.
And we’re starting off with a whimper, not a bang.
Listen, it’s against my own interests to tell you not a lot of new shows or movies came out on streaming this week, but I also have to be honest with you. (Which is why many paid subscribers are so generous to support my work.) The truth is, this week, the streamers objectively released the fewest films and TV shows since I started writing this report.
But when life hands you lemons (or I guess, in this case, the absence of lemons), make lemonade. I always find a bunch of fascinating subplots in the streaming ratings data, even if we didn’t have a deluge of big new shows. (In fact, next week’s report will see just such a deluge of big new shows, with at least seven new scripted shows coming to streaming. Stay tuned for the coming soon section.)
So we have a bunch of fun topics this week. First, I’ll quantify just how few shows and films we saw. (And a big twist in the data that questions this strategy…) Then I’ll do a mini-dive into NFL ratings in 2023 compared to 2022. And we’ll look at the deluge of licensed films that arrived on Netflix and Prime Video on 1-January-2024. That, plus Fool Me Once’s huge opening, The Equalizer 3 doing well in its streaming debut, which new standup special to make the charts, which linear broadcast of a streaming show would have been the biggest on streaming this week, a new streaming ratings data set, and more.
Let’s dive 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 April 6th to April 12th.)
Content – In One of The Lightest Weeks for New Releases, Streaming Ratings Hit Near Records
Each week, I try to collect every new Original TV show or film that comes to streaming for the first time. (I also collect any title that makes any of the ratings charts I track). What this means is that, though I mostly collect every major theatrical title, not all of them make it. And ton of acquired and second run shows don’t get collected.
I say “try”, because it’s not that easy to sweep up everything. (And a lot of time goes into this not-completely-automated process.) Though the list might not be 100% accurate, it’s more than good enough to spot trends. (Out of hundreds of shows, I may miss one or two.)
And I can tell you that the week starting 25-Dec was the second lightest week I’ve ever collected.
The only lighter week than that? This week, the start of the new year 1-Jan-2024.
Sure, it was light during the last week of the year last year (I tracked 33 titles for the week starting 26-Dec-2022), but the week starting 25-Dec-2023 had half as many titles (14 titles!). The week starting 2-January-2023 had twenty titles, and the week of 1-Jan-2024 (covering this report) was down to 13!
Let’s visualize that. First, here’s the breakdown by TV and film, specifically “original” or “straight-to-streaming” shows and movies:
And here’s the look by English language versus non-English language:
See! That’s light.
Looking at the data, you can see that, last year, the week after Christmas is definitely lighter than the week before. But in this case, it’s down even further, and that “gap” is most likely due to two factors we’ve written about a lot in 2023:
- A content pull back as streamers readjust their content spending to try to making streaming profitable.
- The strikes in Hollywood, which caused streamers to shift their release calendars backwards.
How long will this slowdown last? Things pick back up by the next two weeks, so not that long. The tougher question is when we’ll know if the streamers really are ordering fewer shows and films overall, for how long, and by how many. Unfortunately, to really develop trend lines for those numbers might require waiting until 2025, since even 2024 will still show the residual impacts of the strikes.
Now are you ready for the twist? Even though the streamers released fewer shows than ever, streaming viewership boomed. Here’s the total hours of the top 30 shows released on Nielsen each week going back to the start of 2021:
Whoa! So my theory about “New Sweeps”—that streaming usage goes up when everyone has this week off work and hooks up brand new TVs they got as gifts—really does hold true, but the streamers still don’t really launch new shows (at least not this year), because it’s a tough time period to market and publicize new launches.
Television – The 2023 “NFL on Streaming Recap”: Viewership Is Up 31% This Season
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