The Top Streaming Shows in 2023 – Part I: Nielsen’s Weekly Charts

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(Welcome to the Entertainment Strategy Guy, a newsletter on the entertainment industry and business strategy. I write a weekly Streaming Ratings Report and a bi-weekly strategy column, along with occasional deep dives into other topics, like today’s article. Please subscribe.)

Looking at the top films on streaming last week was easy. Most films have about the same run time; the big difference is whether a film went straight-to-streaming or to theaters first. 

TV is not so simple.

I could divide shows up by the “originals” that run first on a streamer and the “acquired” shows that didn’t. (And I will.) I could divide the “debut” (or new) shows up from “returning” shows. (And I will.) And then I could divide shows by release style (binge versus batch versus weekly), length (hour versus half-hour versus longer), and whether it is for kids or not. In addition, you can look at the data by genre, language, IP type and more. (And I will!)

See, not so simple!

We have a lot of data sources to look at (seven) and so many ways to cut the data, that I’m splitting up this article into two. Today, we’re looking at the Nielsen weekly data. Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the Nielsen annual data, Samba TV, Showlabs and everything else.

Since we have over 17 visuals to look at, let’s get right into it, the top shows on Nielsen’s weekly charts.

Nielsen’s Weekly Originals Charts Top Shows

As I mentioned in the introduction, I plan to slice this data a bunch of different ways to keep the comparisons as “apples-to-apples” as possible. In general, I’m going to divide the Nielsen data into new or debut shows (season one or limited series), returning (season two or beyond), and acquired series (shows that start either on linear TV or another streamer first). I’m also leaving out kids shows since they’re really their own animal, so this is shows for adults or “primetime” today.

Before that, a reminder/explanation of my weekly Nielsen dataset. Each week, Nielsen releases a top thirty title streaming chart, with the top ten films, top ten original TV shows, and the top ten acquired shows. And they don’t differentiate by season. I collect and keep this data, but there’s one major limitation: if a show drops out of the top ten list, by definition, it will get a “zero” in my database. That doesn’t mean that it got no viewing that week, just that I don’t know what it is, since it isn’t publicly available. Arguably, this makes the top shows look even bigger.

Returning Series (S2 and Beyond)

We’re going to start with returning shows, which are basically any show that’s on its second season or later. Why? Two reasons:

  • Since returning shows have more episodes, it’s just not fair to compare them to new shows; it’s not an “apples-to-apples” comparison. At the same time, we don’t have enough shows with multiple seasons to compare them that way, so I lump them altogether.
  • Returning shows drive way, way more viewership for a streamer, so they get to go first.

Here are all returning shows compared to each other:

If you want the winners by season, here’s that look:

(As a reminder, I color code my bar charts by streamer, with the key down below each chart.)

Some Thoughts:

We’re just getting started with this issue, and the rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so If you’d like to find out…

  • Which genres audiences love and which ones they don’t…
  • Why more reboots, sequels and remakes are on the way…
  • Whether science fiction, fantasy, superheroes and other “genre” fare is on its way out…
  • Which streamer is leading (Netflix, duh) and by how much…
  • Whether or not you can count the number of foreign hits on one hand…
  • How the “binge-release” model is dying…
  • Over a dozen more visuals…
  • And more…

please subscribe! We can only keep doing this great work with your support.

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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