Avatar: The Last Airbender Opens Big, Drive to Survive Not So Much, And Streaming Awards Shows Disappoint

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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.)

Today’s streaming ratings report might have the perfect amount of content. Unlike some weeks in 2022 (when we had too many TV shows and films to talk about) or the some of the last few weeks (when we had too little) this week we’re in the Goldilocks zone: it’s just the right amount of content: 

  • Do we have a big hit? Yep. (The TV reboot of Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.)
  • What about a fun new data point about an awards show heading to streaming? Yep. (Both The Screen Actors Guild Awards and The Spirit Awards qualify.)
  • What about some animated films switching platforms? Yep as well. (Nimona and Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken.)
  • What about the return of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a controversial (from a ratings perspective) show?

Still, I have three mini-dives, so there’s no time to waste. Let’s dive right 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 February 19th to February 25th.)

Television – Netflix Has Another Big Hit

Anime is kind of overrated right now. Not completely, just “kind of”. Don’t get me wrong: globally, anime makes a lot of money, and its fans really do consume (and in some cases pay for) a lot of it.

But does it move the needle in America? I’m not so sure. It’s a competitive field (nearly every streamer dabbles in it), yet many Americans don’t consume animated content on principle. Historically, animated films and shows meant for adults have a lower ceiling than their live-action counter-parts.

Now, do I feel the same way about live-action adaptions of anime or “anime-inspired” animated projects? I used to, since Cowboy Bebop was one of Netflix’s biggest flops all time. I didn’t even remember that a Ghost in the Shell movie came out…in 2017! Starring ScarJo! Alita: Battle Angel came from Robert Rodriguez, and it too disappointed!

But not anymore. 

In the last year, we’ve seen two big hits anime adaptations at Netflix (or anime-adjacent adaptations) origins. First, it was One Piece; this year it’s Avatar: The Last Airbender (2024), the reboot of the long-running Nickelodeon animated series, which smashed it to over 40 million hours in its first week:

I noted in one of my streaming recaps that we had fewer shows eclipse the “40 million hours in one week” mark in 2023 compared to 2022 (and half of those 40-million-hour weeks in 2023 belonged to Suits). Already, 2024 looks to be off to a stronger start, as four shows have hit that mark this year. (Five if you include football.)

(That’s right, Love is Blind season six also made the 40-million-hour club, a huge jump from last week.)

About the only weakness in the numbers comes from Samba TV, who noted that Avatar: The Last Airbender only had 1.2 million households watch in the first four days, which is only so-so for a top Netflix series. Here’s a comparison to other top series, and you can see that both it and One Piece under-perform on this metric. Like Nielsen, Samba TV only tracks living room TVs, so that may explain some of the discrepancy:

A word of warning, before any development execs head out to buy any and all anime IP that hasn’t already been locked down: we’ve seen our share of anime-adaptation misses as well. Again, Cowboy Bebop was a big miss. And Netflix’s other adaptations haven’t exploded in America, though most were foreign language productions. Avatar: The Last Airbender comes from sterling IP too, having been a kids series on Nickelodeon that built up a devoted fanbase.

If I were to guess, the success of this show and One Piece may inspire a slew of anime adaptations, or for studios to accelerate already-in-development projects. Netflix has a bunch of these in the works, but many appear to be stuck in development hell (another Death Note remake, but this time from the Duffer Bros. once they’re done with Stranger Things, Pokemon, a My Hero Academia movie, and Sword Art Online.) and Taiko Waititi is working on an Akira film for WB…at some point after he finishes with a Star Wars movie.

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

  • Whether the latest season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive made the charts…and if so how many people watched…
  • Streaming’s biggest reality show (Love is Blind) gets bigger…
  • Whether the SAG Awards and Spirits Awards show the promise (or peril) of moving to streaming.
  • Whether Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air can keep soaring…
  • All the flops, bombs and misses of the week, including another big one from Apple Studios…
  • How Nimona did on YouTube compared to Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken did on Netflix…
  • And a lot more…

please subscribe! 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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