(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.)
After making all five episodes available on Tuesday, Marvel Studios‘ Echo has premiered at No. 1 on both the Disney+ and Hulu platforms…While the studio hasn’t put out numbers, Echo is doing better than some of the consistently top-performing titles.
So…what exactly did Echo accomplish? It was the top show on Disney+ and Hulu the day it came out? That bar is so low it’s practically on the floor. I’d be surprised if damn near every primetime drama Disney+ put out didn’t clear that incredibly small hurdle.
This is why we need actual numbers. Because they tell us what actually works in streaming and what doesn’t. And vague datecdotes and social media and critical reviews can’t fill in the gap.
Speaking of numbers, I have a big February planned. Last year, this month unofficially became my “figure out what shows, films, genres, and streamers succeeded or failed on streaming” month. This year, we’re covering the same topics, but I’m making it official. Call it, “2023’s Big Streaming Content Review”. Sure, I go over the streaming ratings on a weekly basis, but this gives us a chance to look holistically at what worked, what didn’t, and what is trending. (Believe me, I’ve already spotted a bunch of trends, including some no one else in Hollywood has noticed yet.)
Here’s the plan:
- Next week we start with the “Flops, Bombs and Misses” for the second half of 2023.
- Then, instead of a streaming ratings report, we’ll review the top TV shows and films of the year.
- Then I’ll take a week off, doing a strategy column and a double issue of the Streaming Ratings Report.
- Then we’ll review the “hits” of 2023 using the WGA’s new metric.
- And then we’ll anoint the winners and losers of the year in TV, film and genres.
- And more. (I don’t want to commit to more than that, but I hope to look at total streaming spending and output in numbers, hit rates, which genres are working and which aren’t, and which streamers performed the best.)
If that sounds like a lot, it will be. And the majority of it will stay behind my paywall because I have to pay the bills. So sign up now if you don’t want to miss a thing.
Before we get there, we have a lot to cover this week. After two slow weeks—see my last issue for a great visualization of that—all of the streamers released new TV shows or movies at the same time, including Disney+ with Echo, Peacock with Ted and The Traitors, Paramount+ with SkyMed, Apple TV+ with Criminal Record, HBO with True Detective, and the usual collection of Netflix releases. That’s a lot for one week! Even crazier, the next two weeks go back to almost nothing.
We’ll look at all that, plus Killers of the Flower Moon, three straight-to-streaming films starring Kevin Hart, Gugu MBatha-Raw, Kaley Cuoco, David Oyelwo, Jake Johnson, Andy Samberg, and Anna Kendrick, surprising sports ratings, and more.
But we start with the NFL…
(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 January 1st to January 8th.)
Television – The NFL Sets A Streaming Record on Peacock
Congratulations to the National Football League, which gets two “mini-dives” in as many weeks. I didn’t think I’d be back this soon, but Peacock hosted the first “streaming-exclusive” playoff game on 13-January between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
Did it work?
Here’s my weekly football chart for you to judge for yourself.
Yikes! Peacock had announced they’d set a streaming record for football, but seeing the numbers really puts it into context. That’s a big number. Big big big! The biggest since we started streaming-exclusive football games last year.
I could give you more superlatives. That’s the eleventh biggest week of any show, special or film in the Nielsen data going back to the start of 2021. (Yes, I calculate it as a 3 hour runtime, but still, in total hours that huge.) This is also the first football game to join the “40 million hours” club, as Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football games were just shy a few times.
I have three caveats on this number, and one isn’t really a caveat. As many folks happily pointed out, a lot of customers probably signed up for Peacock and immediately canceled it after the game. This is barely a caveat. Generating an event that has the most sign-ups of all time for your service is the goal! In fact, according to Antenna’s data, that’s what happened as Peacock set a record for sign-ups for all streamers:
The second caveat? Streaming still isn’t as big as linear viewing, as this was the smallest game of the playoffs. (Here’s the comparison to linear broadcast, where I include the 1.35 million local viewers. Remember, for my weekly NFL ratings, I only estimate streaming in-home viewership.)
The third and final caveat? This wasn’t cheap. Reports had that Peacock paid $100 million to stream this one football game. And unlike making a TV show or film, the value for a football game telecast plummets the very next day. But still, I’m literally about to write about a straight-to-streaming film that also cost $100 million and another that cost a reported $70 million. If a live football game got as many viewers as those films will ever see…doesn’t playoff football seem like a great return on investment?
That’s why, looking at this number, I’d expect to see even more streaming playoff football games in the future. Not much moves the needle for Americans quite like NFL playoff football, and Peacock just showed the ceiling for that.
Film – An Apple TV+ Film “Accounting”
Apple spent a lot of money on movies in 2023:
- Killers of the Flower Moon: $200 million
- Napoleon: $130-200 million
- Ghosted: At least $75 million (I couldn’t find a reliable budget estimate for this one)
- Tetris: $80 million
- Flora and Son: 25 million
- Beanie Bubble: $40 million
And for their work, they earned $156 million at the global box office for Killers of the Flower Moon, $218 million for Napoleon, and Ghosted—which skipped theaters—got 6.2 million hours total on streaming. (Technically, Apple used distributors, who would take a cut, and theater owners take 50% of the revenue as well, but the point stands.) Flora and Son, Tetris, and Beanie Bubble all missed the Nielsen charts. (Already, in 2024, they’re off to another soft box office launch with Argylle disappointing last weekend.)
The good news is that Killers of the Flower Moon made the Nielsen charts this week…
The bad news? At 5.1 million hours, that’s low. Among “Pay 1” films in my data set, it’s good for 31st place out of 47 examples. But at least it made the Nielsen charts, since most Apple TV+ films don’t.
The caveat for all this, of course, is that Apple TV+ just ain’t that big as a service. Fair. And that means they have more opportunity to get subscribers with buzzy titles like Killers of the Flower Moon. But that only works if the films actually make customers want to watch them. At $67 million in domestic box office and only 5 million hours in its debut on streaming, under few other circumstances would we call that a “success” for $200 million in production costs.
I love creating new terms—a vocabulary for this readership if you will—and I thought of this one last week, but want to make it official:
“The Quantumania Test”
Basically, if you said Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was a disappointment for Disney (and many articles added the modifier “huge” in front of disappointment, whilst others called it a bomb or flop), then you can’t then say that other expensive films that fail to launch are somehow “hits”.
I get it, Apple can “afford” to lose money on expensive movies. (And Rockefeller could also afford to lose money on his railroads too.) But that doesn’t invalidate the basic math. If $67 million domestic and 5.1 million hours is a “flop” for a $200 million film for Disney+, then Killers of the Flower Moon is a flop for Apple TV+ too. And actually, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania did a whole lot better than that:
Sure, Apple TV+ can “afford” this bomb. But that doesn’t mean they’re not losing money. Or that it’s healthy long term for this industry to have certain players deficit-financing their content to gain market share.
Quick Notes on Film
- As I mentioned in the introduction, I’m working on my “misses” article for 2023, so I have “misses” on my mind. And I’m worried I’m seeing them everywhere. I was ready to call Kevin Hart’s new film Lift a miss for Netflix, then caught myself. It’s definitely not a miss since it scored 14.5 million hours in its first week, which is basically what every Kevin Hart film does on Netflix (Me Time, 16.2 million hours, 30th among straight-to-streaming films; The Man From Toronto, 15.8 million hours, 35th, Fatherhood 14.6 million, 43rd). Honestly, it’s kind of crazy how similar all these Kevin Hart films start out on Netflix:
- Of the 310 straight-to-streaming films that have made the Nielsen charts since since the start of 2021, Lift got 45th place, so, you know, top 15% or so. But then you find out that it cost $100 million to make, and has a 5.4 on 30K reviews on IMDb, and I wouldn’t call these numbers great either. The Kevin Hart films are trending in the wrong direction, while increasing in cost. This film isn’t a “miss”—let’s reserve those for dogs not barking and films in the bottom 50% of releases—but it is a disappointment. Remember the “Quantamania Criteria”.
We’re just getting started with this issue, but the rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so If you’d like to find out…
- How another “Hit Person Leads A Double Life” film did for Prime Video…
- Whether or not Saltburn is a hit…
- The ratings for the MCU’s latest TV show, and why they aren’t as strong as they appear…
- Which theatrical films showed back up on the film charts…
- The “misses” of the week for both film and TV…
- Whether LeBron James’ latest TV show dominated the charts…
- What standup comedian had a miss on Netflix…
- All the other flops and misses for the week…
- And over 20 more charts and graphs…
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