Tag: Disney+

Did Netflix’s The Crew Stall Out? – The Streaming Ratings Report for 24-March-21

When I sit down each week to pull data for the “Streaming Ratings Report”, it honestly feels like Easter. (Why Easter? Well, we’re closer to that than Christmas and my eldest child is excited for candy delivered in plastic eggs.) This week, my chocolate-filled egg was a new color on the Nielsen rankings. That’s right, a new color! 

Check it out yourself:

IMAGE 1 - Top 30

For the last few weeks, the top ten has only been Netflix and Disney+. The other two big players, Hulu and Prime Video, haven’t had any shows or films make the list. Prime Video’s last entrant was One Night in Miami in January. Hulu has never made a Nielsen top ten list. Until now! Since I color code each streamer, seeing a new color in the chart made me irrationally happy.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report primarily covers data from Nielsen’s latest report, which covers the week of February 15th to 22nd and is United States-focused. And due to an unscheduled childcare issue, this report is a day late.)

Television

IMAGE 4 - TV Ratings Last 6

This week was a down week for Netflix on the TV side. The two big series we covered last time had their expected week 2 and week 3 drop-offs, which the weekly top ten data indicated. Moreover, the two new releases of the week would have failed to chart in Nielsen’s “top ten”, if it still combined originals, acquired and film in the same list. (That’s my current back of the envelope for whether something launched well.)

Let’s dig into one of those to put a little bit of context on Netflix’s overall viewing. Specifically, The Crew, a Kevin James helmed, NASCAR themed sitcom of 10 episodes, averaging about 27 minutes per episode. For the week, it netted 9.3 million hours in total. Which, in context, is about half of what Firefly Lane and Crime Scene did last week. Even worse, it was launched on a Monday, so it doesn’t have the “we only had three days of data” excuse.

What fascinates me, and should fascinate you, is that this is a “Kevin James” series. Sure, many reading that will be like, “Yeah, I don’t get what the deal with him is.” Fair enough but he did helm this:

King of Queen’s Nielsen Ratings via Wikipedia:

IMAGE 5 - King of Queens Data

That’s right, he was one of the building blocks of CBS’ monster sitcom and procedural lineup of the last two decades. (Also, I ride and die for the underrated Hitch.) That said, his last outing on CBS only lasted two seasons, Kevin Can Wait:

Kevin Can Wait Nielsen Ratings via Wikipedia:

IMAGE 6 - Kevin Can Wait

Let’s venture a comparison. With the tremendously huge caveat that streaming is fundamentally different than linear viewership, it is notable that The Crew had fewer than 10 million total hours viewed. We don’t have an apples-to-apples way to compare a full-season of live viewership to one week of binge viewing in a precise way, but no matter how you do it, this show likely stalled out in the middle of the streaming race.

Think of it like this, if 10 million Kevin James fans tuned in, then they watched about two episodes each. Or only 2 million tuned in and watched all ten episodes. In other words, the show either had a small initial audience or low completion rate. Or middling for both. And since this is streaming, the show will rapidly decay in viewership. This was its only shot, short of a second season, to get viewership.

In comparison, CBS can still get 7 plus million viewers to watch Young Sheldon. And that’s just one day of viewing:

IMAGE 7 - Nielsen Ratings

What tentative—and very cautiously tentative—conclusions can we draw here? The Crew likely didn’t launch due to some combination of 1. It didn’t work creatively 2. Netflix still doesn’t index well with the typical “CBS demo” and 3. Kevin James on his own isn’t enough of a draw. If I had to pick, I’d go with one, especially since Netflix released it on a Monday, which is as close as they get to “burying” a show, though explanation two intrigues me.

Other Quick Notes on TV

Good Girls—the NBC Universal owned, NBC aired—release on Netflix drove it to the top spot in TV. Want to know why Comcast/NBCU are so heavily invested in Peacock? It’s seeing viewership like this on other platforms. Shows clearly do have a second life on Netflix, and traditional channels now want to own that second life.

WandaVision had its highest week of viewership yet, breaking 12 million total hours viewed, up from around 10 million the week before. A sign of a “great” to “elite” TV series is that it can grow its audience in season 1. (Elite series then grow the audience season over season.) WandaVision is doing that, and all evidence is that it will peak with the season finale. (It is unclear if WandaVision will have a second season.)

IMAGE 8 - WandaVision

Film

IMAGE 2 - First and 2nd Run Film

The big winner this week was Netflix’s I Care A Lot. Until I build my “historical” film comps—a trickier task than you’d think—I recommend this rule of thumb: “Did a film make into the top ten?” Even better, did a film make the top ten after launching on a Friday (Extraction, Spenser Confidential, The Old Guard, The Christmas Chronicles 2)? This week, I Care A Lot joins that crew, which means it had a good launch in the US.

From there, take a gander at the film in the second spot on Nielsen’s “Top Ten Films”. (As a reminder, Nielsen releases three top ten lists each week, with their definitions of “original TV”, acquired TV and film.)

IMAGE 3 - Nielsen Top 10 Films

Flora & Ulysses beat my expectation and made it onto the top ten list, but only with 4 million hours viewed. Back in 2019, I predicted that Disney could cut into Netflix’s then dominant streaming position with kids. The performance of Flora & Ulysses, along with the library titles like Frozen and Moana is what I meant. Though let’s not get too crazy. At only 4 million total hours viewed, F&U is clearly a kids title, not a four quadrant blockbuster. 

What about Nomadland, the other new entry? Well, it was pretty far from making the top ten list. For an Oscar nominated film—not at the time, but now—this isn’t terrible. Most “prestige/critically-acclaimed/awards-contending” dramas simply have limited upside. Still, at least Hulu finally had a piece of content make the “top 30” list. It will be fascinating to see if The Handmaid’s tale fourth season will crack the TV list this April.

Other quick notes on Film 

– Want some back of the envelope logic? Well, we know that Hulu’s Run opened Friday November 20th, and Hulu touted it as their “most watched” film of all time. They didn’t make the same claim for Nomadland. Thus, Nomadland is Run’s total viewership “floor” at 2.3 million hours and 7.6 million (the lowest total on Nielsen’s top ten from the week of November 16th by NCIS) is its “ceiling” in total minutes viewed. In other words, between 2.3 and 7.6 million people watched Run in its opening weekend.

War Dogs had the second week decay we expected and will likely drop off the top ten next week.

– The presence of Avengers: Endgame is not an accident. It is Marvel’s highest grossing box office title of all time, and it is the first MCU film to make the Nielsen top ten list. As for what’s driving this? Who knows. It could be WandaVision motivating some fans or just the general weakness in the film slates across the streamers. But as for a point I will often make: box office predicts popularity in the long term. Thus, if you were to guess the most popular Marvel film on Disney+, guessing the highest US box office grosser of all time would be the correct guess.

– Oh fine, is there a Netflix point with the Avengers: Endgame performance? Sure, this is 2 million hours of viewing that previously would have lived on Netflix. Moreover, I remain convinced that the top library titles on Netflix were Disney films of some sort or another. Avengers: Infinity War, likely, was a huge title on Netflix in 2019 when Endgame was first released in theaters.

– At the end of each quarter, after their earnings report, I’ll dig deep into Netflix’s “datecdotes”, when they provide the number of subscribers (“households”) who watched two minutes or more of a given show or film. They’ve released a few this quarter so far, but the most notable American example is Yes Day starring Jennifer Garner, which was seen by 53 million households globally in its first 28 days.

Coming Soon! 

– Battle of the Superheroes! Last weekend, The Falcon and Winter Soldier went head to head with The Snyder Cut remix of 2017’s Justice League. Given the buzz, both will likely make the Nielsen top ten when it is released in four weeks, if Nielsen is tracking HBO Max by then. The caveat is that the buzz was definitely for Justice League, so it may have over-indexed in buzz that didn’t translate to viewership:

IMAGE 8 G TRends

– Speaking of Nomadland, the Oscars announced their candidates for “the year without films, the 2020 Academy Awards”. Closer to the show, we’ll review the available data to figure out how popular these films were. (Another reason we need a “streaming box office” report.)

Did the Super Bowl Take a Bite Out of Streaming Ratings? The Streaming Ratings Report for 7-Feb-21

If you read my “Who Won the Month” articles over at Deciderhere, here, here, here, here or here—you’re probably wondering where one of my favorite data tools has been. That’s right, I’m talking about Google Trends data. It’s not perfect but when it works, it works wonders. And this week we have just such a job.

The focus of these reports is “streaming”, but streaming ratings don’t occur in a vacuum. Even as cord cutting has accelerated, more folks subscribe to cable TV in America than don’t. Those who don’t usually still steal borrow their parents log-ins when needed. Meaning a big TV event on broadcast could still, potentially, impact streaming ratings.

Was there an event during the first week of February? For sure: the Super Bowl.

(As a reminder, since Nielsen’s ratings have a four week lag, the Nielsen data is from the week of February 1st to February 7th, which includes the Super Bowl on February 7th. At the end, I’m testing a new feature for the series/films premiering between then and now.)

TelevisionIMAGE 1 - TV Last Six UPDATED v02The winner of the week of February 7th was Netflix’s season 1 of Firefly Lane, which sure seemed like a bit of counter-programming to the Super Bowl, at 21.8 million hours viewed in its opening week. It also premiered on a Wednesday, likely to help find an audience before the weekend.

Meanwhile, Disney’s WandaVision is gaining strength week-over-week, rising to a season high of 9.8 million hours viewed, up from 7.2 the week before. (Though Bridgerton still had more total viewership.) How does this compare to some other weekly-released genre series? Glad you asked. Here’s the ratings data per week, along with the “per episode” viewership:

IMAGE 2 - Three Looks at Genre

I gave three data cuts, because I can’t decide if factoring in season one episodes or only season two is a better look for an approximation of “viewers per episode”. Either way, the ability for WandaVision to grow its audience and potentially pass The Boys in viewers per episodes is impressive. 

Even more impressive? WandaVision is about half the length of The Boys and 3/4th of The Mandalorian. I’m dabbling with a “ratings” score for TV series, which factors in the number of episodes and their length. When it’s ready—tentatively April—you’ll see that analysis.

Will WandaVision’s ratings hold up through the season finale? Probably. Here’s the Google Trends look for the big shows of January:

IMAGE 3 - G Trends Jan Shows v02

Tons to unpack here. First, Cobra Kai had a buzzier peak, but you can see that Bridgerton passed it in staying power. This aligns with the Nielsen data, which is why I trust both these sources. Meanwhile, if the Google Trends hold, WandaVision will keep adding viewership just like Disney’s previous tentpole series, The Mandalorian.

IMAGE 4 - GTrends - Mando v WandaVision

At first, I was going to type, “Disney’s hit rate on TV seasons is now 3 for 3 which is incredible”, but that would be wrong. One of the themes of this report will be to look for “dogs that aren’t barking” to quoth Sherlock Holmes. In this case, we forget that Disney has indeed launched other series, even scripted ones like Muppet’s Now. The majority of these have been smaller reality series. The better way to describe it is that Disney has successfully launched every “tentpole” series to date. If The Falcon and Winter Soldier can continue that trend, that’s a tremendous competitive advantage for Disney: Once per quarter Disney+ has a new series that makes it must tune-in for millions of households.

Other Quick Notes on TV

– Kids TV has a bit of a “dogs not barking” situation too. Specifically, whereas Netflix can routinely put kids series into the originals or licensed top ten—Cocomelon, Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous—Disney hasn’t yet. Explanations could be: 1. Disney has many more kids series, so viewing is more dispersed. 2. Kids watching Disney tend to rewatch movies or 3. More kids watch Netflix overall. We’ll need more data to figure it out. (In the meantime, check out Emily Horgan, writing at What’s On Netflix, for deeper look at kids data on Netflix.)

Blown Away stayed on the top ten originals list of this week, which surprised me. Still its on the downward trend cycle like most other originals.

Fate: The Winx Saga had a big drop off into its third weekend. It would have dropped off the “combined top ten” list this week.

FilmIMAGE 5 - FIlm First RunAs I opined last week, The Dig and Finding ‘Ohana did well for Netflix, rising to the first and second spots in the film list. However, the numbers are a pinch misleading. If you look just at the above chart, you’d conclude that there wasn’t much decay week-over-week in the ratings. Au contraire, as I’ve written, “The decay is real.” In this case, if you factor in the number of days the film is available, you see the decline. (In other words, total viewing per day.)

IMAGE 6 - Film DecayLet’s make a call: were The Dig and Finding ‘Ohana hits? I don’t think so. Truly popular films don’t just top out on the film list, but earn a sport on the combined Nielsen Top Ten list. Neither of these films did that, in the weakest week of 2021 so far.

Other Quick Notes on Film

– Is it just me, or is it genuinely shocking that Malcolm & Marie didn’t make this list? Talk about a “dog not barking”! It’s by the creator of Euphoria, with the lead star of Euphoria. That is about the buzziest show in the world—it won an Emmy!—and their film didn’t crack the top ten on its opening weekend for Netflix.

(Update: After hitting publish, I updated these two sections. Previously, I put that Malcolm & Marie was in its second weekend, when it premiered the Friday before the Super Bowl. Also, the next bullet point was supposed about Denzel Washington’s The Little Things, which was poorly written and unclear. We–meaning I–regret the error.)

– Fine, let’s just call this week the “dogs not barking” edition. The other film with a big January release was The Little Things on HBO Max and theaters simultaneously. But Nielsen didn’t report numbers for it either. In this case, it’s because Nielsen wasn’t measuring it. To get an accurate result, Nielsen needs a statistically significant amount of viewership on a given streamer to make the top ten lists. Right now that only includes Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+. They made an exception for Wonder Woman 1984. Instead of Nielsen, Google Trends can give an idea how well The Little Things and Malcolm & Marie did:

IMAGE 7 - Film Trends

In other words, The Little Things did pretty well! HBO Max has kept marketing these films like tentpoles, and awareness is doing really well.

Did the Super Bowl Impact Total Streaming Viewing?

Did the Super Bowl suck the oxygen out of the streaming room? Maybe. Here’s the total viewership of the Nielsen Top ratings charts for 2021, including all numbers, the top 13 (which is we know for certain) and the top five pieces of content:

IMAGE 8 - Weekly Total ratingsLikely the Super Bowl caused a down week, but the numbers had been trending down since December’s big finish. Still, the lack of new releases by most of the major studios reinforced the decline. It’s a chicken and egg situation: did the Super Bowl cause down ratings, or did streamers avoid Super Bowl weekend, which caused down ratings

Either way, they were smart to do so. Here’s the Google Trends for the TV series, with the Super Bowl:

IMAGE 9 - Super Bowl Trends

Coming Soon! 

I’ve started to get some questions—and please send me more! Twitter or email—about some recent releases and my thoughts. Unfortunately, Nielsen has a four week publishing lag, and since I trust it the most, it delays this report. Here’s a sneak preview of major releases I’m monitoring for February to March:

Raya and the Last Dragon. Last fall, one of my most read articles was this analysis determining how many folks watched Mulan on PVOD for Disney+. Will I replicate that analysis for Raya? Probably. Most likely, I’ll wait until we have the Nielsen data in four weeks.

Coming 2 America. According to Google Trends, it’s as popular as Amazon and Screen Engine claim. Though I’d love to have concrete data.

IMAGE 10 - Film with C2A

– The Snyder Cut “Mistake”. HBO Max “accidentally” replaced Tom and Jerry with The Snyder Cut over the weekend. Which feels almost impossible from a project management work flow perspective. Both Tom and Jerry and The Snyder Cut are on my radar.

– Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle (and that guy who was with her.) This was hugely popular. Interestingly, while it streamed on Paramount+, ViacomCBS doesn’t own it, Oprah’s Harpo Productions does. Where could it end up on streaming next?

– Apple TV+’s Billy Eilish’s documentary was huge. For them. For whatever that means. Julia Alexander at the Verge splashes cold water on this for us.

A Down Week Makes for Some Strange Ratings: The EntStrategyGuy US Streaming Ratings Report for 3-March-21

[Editor’s Note: This is the second edition of a new website feature, a weekly report on streaming ratings. One of the quirks of the streaming wars is that no one knows what shows or movies are doing well, what are doing poorly and what failed to launch. If you have any questions or data you’d like to see, let me know!]

This week’s ratings are frankly one of the weirder weeks since Nielsen started releasing their top ten lists. Since ratings were down overall, smaller and odder titles got a chance to make the list.

Television

IMAGE 1 - TV LineAs with most weeks, Netflix was the dominant performer. What makes this week strange is how it got there. 

Only two originals made the top ten in overall viewing. One of them was Bridgerton, which testifies to the incredible staying power of that show. Bridgerton is likely an “elite” series for Netflix in the United States now, along with Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Ozark and The Crown. Fortunately, Netflix owns Bridgerton outright, unlike OITNB, Ozark or The Crown. 

Though a hit series (without new episodes) can only drive viewing for so long, and Netflix’s end of January launches didn’t seem to hit. Season two of reality series Blown Away only had 7.3 million hours viewed, which in 2020 would not have been enough viewership to make the top ten lists most weeks. Bling Empire didn’t make the top ten originals list for a second week either. Fate: The Winx Saga did gain week over week, but it will likely fall off the list in the next week or two, judging by its top ten list performance. (It is also the latest in a line of teen dramas produced by Netflix. At some point, all Netflix series may take place in high school/boarding schools.)

The other big series were library or second run titles, including the latest season of Outlander. Here’s the top ten list if you only highlighted wholly-owned or originals:

IMAGE 3 - Nielsen 30 Originals Wholly

Which brings us to the studio/streamer dominating the film list, Disney. Many third party analytics firms continue to estimate that WandaVision is one of the most watched series in the US. (See Parrot Analytics or TVision for two examples.) So why doesn’t WandaVision perform higher in Nielsen’s ranking? The explanation is simply that series with more episodes do better in total hours viewed, as I showed last week. This trend only continued this week. WandaVision added only a single episode, but its total hours went from 6.3 million to 7.2 million.

Other Quick Notes on TV

– US viewers continue to avoid international originals, except for shows from other English speaking countries. Indeed, the most exotic series come from Canada (Schitt’s Creek, Blown Away), the UK (The Dig) or joint US/UK series (Outlander, The Crown). Notably, all English speaking series. Technically, Fate: The Winx Saga is partly from Italy, but that series is also based on a show that aired on Viacom’s Nickelodeon and is in English. The hypothesis that Netflix is able to take advantage of global scale to launch series may be true, but that’s happening despite the US, which continues to watch English language programming.
Disenchantment by Simpson’s creator Matt Groening is likely a disappointment. Premiering on January 15th, it has already dropped off the total hours list.
Longmire is the latest Netflix original to make an appearance on the bottom of the “Originals” top ten list well after its latest season dropped. Other examples from January include Designated Survivor appearing the week of December 28th and Great British Baking Show throughout January.
– As expected, Lupin with only four episodes dropped off the US top ten lists after only two weeks in the top ten.

FilmIMAGE 4 - Feature Films

Film may be even weirder than TV. The biggest film on Netflix was Lionsgate’s The Next Three Days, which was originally released 11 years ago and only grossed $67 million at the US box office. It was added on January 22nd, so what a “Netflix bump”.

Even stranger, it wasn’t like Netflix didn’t try to launch some own original films of their own. Netflix released at least three potentially big films, The Dig and Finding ‘Ohana. The Dig and Finding ‘Ohana both made the top ten list for film. All three were released on a Friday (January 29th) so they could gain steam. However, as we’ve seen repeatedly, most films usually lose viewers in their second and third weeks, especially when measuring by day.

The Netflix daily top ten lists to get an idea of where this is trending. Using FlixPatrol’s collection of this data, here’s February’s list. Finding ‘Ohana will likely gain the most:

IMAGE 2 - Weekly Releases

Other quick notes on Film

– The expanded look provided by Nielsen (three top ten lists instead of one consolidated) continues to provide additional insights as we get more data. For example, the importance of recently released films is even more important than I had thought. Of the seven new pieces of content to make one of the top ten lists for the week of January 25th, six premiered in January. And four were released in the week of January 25th, including Below Zero, Finding Ohana and The Dig.
Soul has decayed down to Mulan/Frozen II levels. I suspect that Onward likely dominated the film lists in the spring, though I don’t have data to prove it. If this is true and Soul performs similarly, then Soul will likely stay at this level until Disney has a new kids film to launch on the platform, meaning Raya and the Last Dragon after its “Premiere Access” window.
– Netflix’s library titles that are action or thrillers seem to over-perform. Of the January titles on the film list, many fit this bill, some with obscure origins like The Next Three Days, Killers, 30 Minutes or Less, The Vanished and Homefront.

Competition

Netflix dominated streaming in January. Of the forty films or series in the consolidated top ten in January, only one was not on Netflix, Soul during the week of 4-January.

Nielsen Top Ten Last 4 weeks

[Editor’s Note. I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the ratings data of the week. And trust me I know this is very “Nielsen”-heavy analysis. It won’t stay that way. I’m working on adding weekly top ten rankings, IMDb, Google Trends and other data slices to make this as comprehensive, while readable as possible. The key, though, is that I don’t want to add any data source piecemeal or anecdotally. I have to analyze, vet and understand the data before incorporating it.

By the way, if you’re an analytics firm who would like to partner or provide data, please don’t hesitate to reach out.]

Nielsen’s New Top 30 Streaming Video Ratings…Explained! Plus a Visual of the Week

Starting last August, Nielsen began releasing a weekly American top 10 most watched list for streaming video. I’ve been using it ever since. Nielsen mixed together TV and movies, and new (“originals”), second-run and library (“acquired”) on the same list. 

In their year-end top ten list, though, Nielsen flipped the script and provided three different top ten lists. Formatting mine, with hours instead of minutes:

IMAGE 1 - Nielsen Top 10 2020

This was a sign of things to come. Starting with the week of Monday, December 28th, Nielsen is now publishing three top ten lists, one for “original” TV series, one for “licensed” TV series, and one for film. 

(Man that’s a lot of definitions. In the future, I’ll define them all. But for now, this article from 2019 has a good explanation of the definitions I use to analyze content.)

Whenever a firm changes their data definitions, I tend to get extra cautious doing analysis. For example, when Netflix went from calling a view “2 minutes watched” from “70% viewed” a lot of folks continued as if nothing had changed in the numbers. This violates the number one rule of data analysis: keeping things apples-to-apples. (My solution was to convert all the numbers to the same metric, using Netlfix’s average 35% inflation between the two numbers.)

That’s a worry here. Unless Nielsen provides me with an expanded database going back through 2020, most of our data will now be cleaved into “2020 Top Ten” data and “2021 Top 10×3” data. Thus any analysis of 2020 to 2021 data will need to factor in that it may not be “apples-to-apples”.

But…

…this is still great news.

Here is the the synthesized Nielsen top ten list for the last two weeks of Nielsen data, if Nielsen had continued the old methodology:

IMAGE 2 - Top TenIMAGE 3 - Top Ten

Now, we can compare this to the new, combined top 30 lists:

IMAGE 4 - Top 30 List

IMAGE 5 - Top 30In other words, that’s a lot more data to parse! More data means more analysis! More analysis means more insights!

Previously, any of the data from The Mandalorian on down in the week of December 28th and all the titles from The Crown from January 4th would have been invisible to us. Moreover, we can confidently say that this list is a clear top 23 list one week and a top 21 list the next. (Basically, anything above the first “10” on the list by logic is in order.) 

Overall, this expansion should greatly help our understanding of how content is performing in the streaming wars:

– Previously, original films on Netflix and Disney all dropped off the Top 10 list after two weeks. This will allow us to track film decay with greater fidelity. (For example, The Midnight Sky would have only had one week of data before.)
– We’ll also get more films on the list, being able to clarify which films underperform their openings more often. (For example, We Can Be Heroes made the list.)
– This will also let us track TV series decay as well. As we’ve written before, four of the ten top spots in this list were usually held by licensed second-run and library content on Netflix. This essentially gives us 10 or more original titles to review each week. (For example, The Mandalorian would have dropped off the week of December 28th. The Crown would have dropped off the week after.)
– More spots should potentially allow more non-Netflix series and films on the list. This will allow us to compare performance trends between the streamers as well. Right now, Disney+ and Prime Video shows dropped off after a week or two. This will enable to track their decay as well.

For example, in the past Soul would have just eked out staying on this list. (The first film to make the top ten for three weeks in a row.) But The Midnight Sky (72 million global 2 minute views, Netflix revealed in their earnings report) would have dropped off. Same with We Can Be Heroes (53 million global 2 min views) would never have made the list. Now I can make this chart:

IMAGE 6 - Feature Film Decay

Interestingly, all the films featured big drops in viewership (44% for We Can Be Heroes and 56% for The Midnight Sky), but Soul didn’t see its big drop until week two to three (61%).

As a reminder, Nielsen doesn’t track HBO Max data yet, so we don’t know how Wonder Woman 1984 fared in its second week.

Visual of the Week – Netflix Films Do Much Better Weekly; Disney+ Films Do Better All Year

When Nielsen only released a single top ten list, films only made the list when they were newly released, such as Mulan, Borat’s Subsequent Moviefilm and Netflix’s regular releases. As such, when Nielsen released a cumulative top ten list for film in 2020, the results were very skewed towards Disney’s rewatchable films:

IMAGE 7 - Nielsen Top Ten FilmWhen we look at the weekly rankings of movies, the Disney dominance isn’t quite as strong:

IMAGE 8 Various Top TenWith a now weekly top ten list, we’ll be able to get a different perspective on the competition between Disney and Netflix for, frankly, kids viewership. Some insights:

– Kids programming still dominates the film list. For this week, 11 of the top 20 are targeted at kids. And one is a teen comedy. (17 Again)
– Netflix does better in a weekly top ten, due to their size. Indeed, this shows that the split between Disney+ and Netflix is much closer in kids content than it seems. However, Diseny+ does seem to still be winning.
Rango was misidentified as being on Prime Video. It is currently on Netflix exclusively in the US. Nielsen has confirmed this.
– That said, it does look like Amazon did get one genuine film on the list with Catch Me if You Can. It’s their only entry in the three top ten lists for the last two weeks.
– Interestingly, like original TV, Netflix’s films are skewed towards new releases. Of the 13 Netflix films on the list the last two weeks, only 1 was released before December 25th, which was The Croods. Thus we can see that whereas Disney+ sustains interest in their small library of kids content, Netflix relies on recent releases, even on licensed kid content.

Can Peacock’s “Live TV” Strategy Win the Streaming Wars? Yes – Most Important Story of the Week – 29 Jan 21

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It’s rare–though not as rare as it seems–for a company to compete not just for the top spot in my weekly judgement of the most important story in entertainment, but to have two different stories compete. HBO Max has actually done that a few times, and so has Netflix and Disney+. This week was Peacock’s turn to step into the spotlight and throw down not just one, but two big entertainment stories. Let’s combine them into…

Most Important Story of the Week – Peacock Acquires WWE Network, While Shutting Down NBCSN

When I first read the Peacock-WWE headline, I assumed they had bought the rights to Raw, the Monday night telecast of the WWE. No, they went all in and bought the rights for five years to the WWE Network, WWE’s streaming platform that delivers their pay-per-view events for a monthly fee. (With tons of documentaries, some original reality shows and re-runs of Raw and Smackdown.) Wow! That’s even bigger than I expected. Toss in shutting down the first major sports channel by the end of the year, and Peacock is definitely making moves. 

With these latest moves, Peacock is trying to “become the TV habit” for millions of Americans. Let’s explain that and then decide if this was good or bad.

Netflix’s Best Metric and “Breaking the TV Habit”

A metric I beg for fairly often on this website is “monthly active users”, the percentage of all paying subscribers who watch a streamer in a given month. But you know what would be even better? The metric of how many monthly users who were active for multiple months in a row. In other words, over a six month span, how many customers used a service in a given month. Call it “unique streaming months”.

Let’s not stop there. Even better would be to know how many folks watch a given streamer every week. And once we have this level of granularity, we could cut the data all sorts of ways. Who streamed the most consecutive weeks. Or rank folks by how many days the stream per month. Or per week. And on and on. 

Focusing on “unique viewing days per month” in many ways is a better predictor of retention than total usage. Both numbers are useful, but if you gave me a choice, I’d opt for the former. 

Why is this so predictive? Well, think of a customer’s TV habit. It’s the end of the day, and they sit on the couch. Then they turn on the TV. In my case–a non-cord cutter–it’s to switch to the DVR to see what is on. I only interrupt this habit for certain streaming shows–Disney+ usually–or sports (which is why I don’t cut the cord). 

But I’m not egotistical enough to believe my TV habit is representative of America. (Though, ironically, my habit is actually still the average consumption in America. Remember, according to the best TV analysis, 76% of viewing is linear/cable/broadcast/satellite, and only 25% is streaming.) For many folks, the habit is to sit down, turn on a Roku (or similar device), then go to Netflix, and scroll endlessly. Or continue bingeing whatever bingeable show they watched the night prior.

And yes, Netflix is a deliberate choice. They’re the first in the streaming wars, because they’ve built that habit in a huge number of customers in America and around the globe. For the “Netflix is TV” crowd, Netflix replaces turning on the cable box as “TV”. Even though I can’t prove it, I know that Netflix leads in “distinct streaming days per month” among the streamers.

Yet Netflix has a weakness.

Netflix’s Content Gap

“TV” can mean a few different things. Some TV serves to entertain. This can be either fake (fiction, dramas or comedies) or real (reality and documentaries). But it can also be informative, like news or sports. Notably, these last two categories are unique because they are also better served live than “on-demand”.

Netflix is an “on-demand” platform. When a customer wants it, they can watch it. This was, to be clear, a huge value to consumers, since they no longer had to wait for content until it aired on TV. (In truth, the DVR added a lot of this value previously, but on-demand is up another notch entirely.)

But all on-demand has limitations in the same way that all linear had limitation. Frankly, sports and news don’t work on-demand. They have to be live. This is what is saving the linear bundle right now.

And those two big genres–news and sports–are notable weakpoints in Netflix’s  content library. Netflix has tried to air shows that are close to “live”, like nightly talk shows, but even these have for the most part not worked on that platform. It also makes a lot of documentaries–like Vox’s Explained series–but even these lag real time news by weeks or longer.

That leaves an opening for some clever new entrants in the streaming wars.

A Differentiated Competitive Advantage for Peacock – Live, Live, Live

When Peacock first rolled out, I was fairly bullish on their plan because unlike other new entrants, Peacock really did seem to have an idea for a product that was unique compared to the giant that was Netflix (and the other streamers). I called them the “broadcast streamer”. Consider the dimensions of “on-demand” versus what I’m calling “fake vs real” for content. If we made this chart for all the streamers, you’d get this:

IMAGE 1 - Updated

(This isn’t based on numbers, simply my gut. And yes, many streamers have cheap reality. This is best looked at what a company’s priorities/branding are.)

Let’s interpret this. Essentially, Peacock said, “We know there are some folks out there who watch MSNBC for news, Jimmy Fallon/Seth Myers for late night, and then watch some sports. Our offering should serve them.” Their offering entices folks in with that recurring, live content. Then, hopefully, their entertainment offering keeps them around. 

Consider, on the other hand, HBO Max. The bet for HBO Max is basically, “Hey, we have lots of content too. Instead of using Netflix for your habit, use us.” Which may happen, but more likely some folks will watch some HBO shows, but then go back to Netflix. Netflix is their habit. Indeed, Prime Video has been deploying this strategy for almost as long and with about the same results. Hulu too, and they have an even better offering, recent TV.

So who is really differentiated in the streaming wars? I’d say:

– Disney+: Kids programming. Indeed, the Nielsen top movies essentially shows that for most kids, Disney+ has become the “TV habit” replacing Netflix in the United States. However, when it comes to the rest of TV, Disney+ will struggle to replace Netflix as the TV habit on their own.

Screen Shot 2021-01-29 at 8.27.12 AM

– Peacock: Furthest along streamer in “live” TV programming, including news, sports and actual linear channels to encourage lean back viewing.

– Discovery+: This differentiation grows even further if you focus on quality vs quantity of content. Discovery+ saw Netflix, Prime Video, HBO and Disney shelling out the big bucks for splashy buzzy shows. And it said, “Here’s more 90 Day Fiance”. 

Everyone else is mostly mimicking Netflix, like Prime Video, Paramount+, Showtime, AMC+ and HBO Max.  For the most part–boiling down strategy to one or two sentences lacks nuance–these streamers are trying to beat Netflix as their own game. We’ll see if they can, but I prefer differentiated strategies. Moreover, in Peacock’s case, this strategy also takes advantage of their biggest strength compared to Netflix, their wide ranging experience in live sports, news, and even broadcast television.

Which is where the NBCSN sports (hockey, Olympic sports, Nascar, Premiere League “soccer”, cycling and Indy Car) and the WWE come in.

How WWE and NBC Sports Can Reinforce the Peacock TV Habit

In general, then, the WWE acquisition and move of some sports to Peacock is a signal that Peacock is growing its content in the places where Netflix is weak: live events. Of course, no strategic move is perfect, nor without risk. And let’s explain both of these moves in that light.

The Positives

The big benefit for having WWE Pay-Per-Views and the NBC sports on Peacock is that each can drive repeated unique streaming days per month. Under a Netflix content strategy, you have to hope you can out-develop Netflix for the next big show or film. That’s pretty unlikely with all the content being made.

Instead, Peacock is focusing on delivering a product with known fans. Who tune in on a weekly basis. Say there is a die-hard WWE fan. Now, if they want to watch Wrestlemania or replays of Raw and Smackdown, they’ll have to go to Peacock. The dream is that once they’re done, they’ll check out The Office or Law and Order or Yellowstone or, who knows, The Real Housewives. Boom, a TV habit is born.

Knowing that the WWE had 1.6 million subscribers recently, that’s a lot of potential regular viewers. That’s a ton of upside. (If it can retain all those subscribers? $192 million per year at $10 per month.)

See, there is always a risk for any sport is that the vast majority who watch when access is easy–the followers and casuals–just don’t when it goes behind a paywall. That’s the terror keeping the NFL/NBA/MLB from going digital only. For example, look at the Pac-12 Network when it left AT&T distributors. I was a huge follower of all things UCLA. But would I change my whole cable bundle for college baseball and gymnastics? Nope. 

The upside for Peacock is the WWE Network subscribers had already opted in to digital-only. So there isn’t that worry here. That’s good.

The Negatives

But let’s not pretend these two decisions win the streaming wars. One of the reasons the WWE and some NBC sports are fine to go streaming-only is because, well, they aren’t that big to begin with. WWE does have a loyal fan base, but it’s not like it’s huge. As I just said, only 1.6 million subs, or 0.48% of America. 

The counter I expect is, “They may be small, but they’re dedicated!” I heard/hear this a lot from producers, creators, networks and development executives defending shows/films that not many folks watch. Say a show is buzzy–and usually beloved by critics–but no one is watching it. The defenders then say, “But those who do LOVE it!” They usually have no data to support this.

My counter is that most shows are more the same than different. Same for sports leagues. Let’s say a fan could fall into one of a few buckets: fanatic, diehard, follower, casual. Define those how you want, but you’d roughly get something like…

Screen Shot 2021-01-29 at 8.48.52 AM

If we know that the most popular sports leagues/shows aren’t just a little more popular, but multiples more popular, than we find out that even having devoted fans isn’t enough. Say one show has 100K viewers per week and another has 1 million. Essentially, the bigger show has more fanatics and die-hards than the other show has total viewers. That’s just the math.

This applies to NBCSN’s sports in particular. As great as it will be to get all of NHL hockey’s diehard fans to follow hockey onto Peacock, that number just isn’t very big. The NFL can deliver multiples more die-hard fans than hockey, Olympic sports, soccer (football) and racing everything else on NBCSN…combined. 

Which is probably why the NBCSN announcement hedged that NBCSN sports aren’t just headed to Peacock, but also to the USA Network, about as traditional of a cable net as you can get. As folks speculated, essentially the USA Network will become NBC Universal’s general interest cable net, much like the purpose TNT serves for AT&T. If this were a war, USA Network is one of NBC Universal’s fall back positions as it retreats from traditional linear distribution.

Final Call?

Add it all up, and I like these moves. A lot. Bringing in new regular users who can get locked in to your core customer value proposition is just a win-win. NBC-Universal continues to execute an actual strategy, and that’s unique enough in the streaming wars to be worth praising.

Lastly, on the headline, my take is that a company can “win” the streaming wars simply by 1. Making money and 2. Having a seat at the streaming table in 5-10 years. With it’s current strategy, Peacock is clearly on that trend line and we’ll see if the numbers support that in the next couple of years. (Netflix and Disney+ are the two closest to winning right now.)

Bonus Quick Thoughts

– Is this a good move WWE? Probably. As I just said, the big worry for a sports league–let’s call the WWE that–is that folks don’t follow and essentially you use their “fan lifetime value”, a term I just made up. WWE has a bit less risk with that here in that folks who don’t cut the cord can keep watching on Fox. Yet, WWE can still sell pay-per-views through traditional channels, so I don’t see much risk of less exposure.

– Is this a good move for the USA Network? I think so. This gives another option for live programming on a few more days per week, and maybe during the weekend. That live viewing can then drive to the scripted programming better. In short, it’s fine.

– Bundlers want to replace Netflix too. When I talk about the “TV Habit”, the Roku, Amazon, Apple and Google’s of the world essentially want their devices to be that habit. Instead of going to a specific application, you’ll just browse on their device. So far, none have really succeeded. Mainly because the streamers hate this.

– Price. Variety says sources say about $1 billion for five years. Running the math, WWE makes about $192 million per year (1.6 million times $10 times 12 months), so this isn’t outrageous. Likely Peacock is paying $10 per sub, but they’ll transition WWE folks to either the $5 ad free or $10 tier. For WWE customers, this feels like an even bigger win.

– But note! It’s also only a 5 year deal. Hmmm. If it works, expect a big jump at the end.

How the Antitrust Case Against Facebook Could Upend the Streaming Wars: Most Important Story of the Week – 11 Dec 2

Disney is a marketer’s marketer. With the biggest brands in entertainment, they can serve up an investor day—an investor day that is for Wall Street investors!—that gets regular folks to turn in and trends on Twitter. Yet, for all the buzz, the basic story was that Disney is releasing Disney content on the Disney branded streamer. We’ll get to that, but another story could have bigger implications for entertainment.

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Most Important Story of the Week – The Antitrust Case Against Facebook

A few months back, following Epic’s Games epic lawsuit against Apple, I stated that I planned to follow “antitrust” news fairly closely. Because antitrust could be the new “deregulation”:

I’ve been scanning the landscape more over the last couple of months to look at the future. And the “blue ocean” space in the entertainment strategy landscape for me isn’t technology–again, the futurists have it covered–but how regulation could change business models. And this is a hypothesis I’m monitoring: 

Could antitrust enforcement could become the new deregulation?

Deregulation was arguably the biggest driver of disruption in the 1970s and 1980s. Deregulating industries across the globe from airlines to energy to telecommunications repeatedly enabled smart firms to seize new advantages. That airlines example above is a perfect example; Southwest likely doesn’t become Southwest without deregulation.

Generally, everything has been deregulated. So what comes next? My guess is a reversal of antitrust. 

Since then, the signs that antitrust is on the agenda have only picked up steam. Consider:

– The House Antitrust Subcommittee released the “Cicilline Report” which laid out how the four big tech firms have used their market power to hinder competition.

– The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Google for specific antitrust violations. State Attorneys General are expected to follow suit.

– Joe Biden was elected as the next President of the United States. While there is some bipartisan support of renewed antitrust legislation (see Google’s antitrust suit, filed by a Republican), Democrats are still clearly more supportive than Republicans on antitrust.

– This week, 48 states and the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. (Also a bipartisan move.)

In August, I laid out a few waypoints that I would watch to see if increased antitrust enforcement was likely coming. We hit the big one (Biden’s election), the next biggest (Congress increasing pressure) and now antitrust is headed to the courts (Specific lawsuits against Google and Facebook). As the future becomes slightly clearer, then, it’s worth expanding the potential for what comes next, especially for entertainment and media.

Predictions

What happens next?

To start, more antitrust lawsuits for the rest of big tech feels inevitable. Amazon seems particularly easy given that they have leveraged their market power in retail for years to enter new industries or stifle competition. The complaints from smaller vendors are legion. (The diapers.com affair from the start of the decade is particularly egregious.) Apple is more beloved than Amazon, but the Fortnite fiasco basically illustrated in stark terms Apple’s market power, and brought up a host of smaller competitors crushed under their power. Both Amazon and Apple, though, are more popular than Google and Facebook, which have both been embroiled in partisan bickering.

After that? The states/FTC/DoJ will either win or lose their lawsuits. That proposition is dicey because these suits are decided by individual judges, many of whom were appointed by Republican presidents with The Federalist society backing “Borkians” who tend to downplay antitrust concerns. Or in some cases just don’t believe antitrust is worthy of government attention.

If the states lose their lawsuit, then it would require Congress to change the laws around antitrust. That’s a much tougher challenge in today’s political landscape. But not impossible. (The Georgia run-offs will say a lot on whether this is possible.) Assuming that the Big Tech companies lose their fight, then come the potential remedies, which adds another layer of complexity to predicting what happens next.

Potential Outcomes

Let’s be honest and let the air out of the balloon right off the bat: The most likely outcome is that Big Tech is mostly left in place. Think Microsoft in the 1990s. In the worst case, the companies agree to some measures to control their behavior, but immediately go back to not following them and paying minuscule fines.

This is, essentially, what has happened with most merger consent decrees this decade. Facebook said it wouldn’t integrate What’s App’s data, then did it anyways. AT&T said prices wouldn’t go up after mergers, then raised prices. The companies pay the fines and keep consolidating. Disney said it would keep producing Fox movies, but now may release fewer films in theaters post merger than they did before.

The best case would be consent decrees that are enforced. Like the Paramount Consent Decrees of the 1950s. This helped movie studios and theaters thrive. Or AT&T’s forced divestment of patents in the 1950s. This spurred innovation across the U.S. landscape, which really did help competition. (It does say something that success examples of this happened 70 years ago…)

The bigger, and more fun to imagine, scenario is breaking up big tech. (And while I try to avoid my own policy recommendations, this is the outcome that I believe would benefit America the most.) These breakups could be either horizontal (the same industry) or vertical (different business units in the same company in related fields). 

Vertical is actually easier in most cases since the different companies don’t need each other to survive. So for Amazon, spinning off AWS, for example, would hardly impact Amazon’s retail business. (Though it would deprive Amazon of a valuable profit stream.) Google has multiple business units that could easily survive on their own. I’d add that splitting up Instagram and What’s App from Facebook are horizontal break ups, but relatively easy to contemplate since customers wouldn’t notice a change. (I’d make the same case for Amazon breaking up their marketplace from their other retail enterprises.) 

While vertical break ups in many cases don’t address market power, they are still very helpful for competition, since it means the firms left in a given industry can compete more evenly. (And most vertical integration tends to be followed by price gouging, product tying or other anti-competitive behavior.)

The key question for entertainment is whether each of the big tech titan’s entertainment enterprises get divested individually or remain as part of the bigger conglomerate. I could argue that Google should easily divest Youtube. Youtube can clearly survive on its own, but this would also give a powerful new internet advertising option to marketers. Apple could divest its media fairly easily (they are all just apps running on their operating system). Amazon has a better case for Prime Video staying in Prime, but even that isn’t ironclad. (Ask yourself: couldn’t Amazon pay the new Prime Video to stay in their Prime bundle? Yes, obviously. So why wouldn’t they? Because the value isn’t actually in the current video/data, it’s the market penetration to gain dominance overall.)

This is an unlikely scenario I’ve laid out. The plaintiffs have to win their lawsuits and then the remedy has to be the most extreme of remedies (break up). But imagine we do get here. Who are the winners and losers of this world? Imagine that Prime Video becomes its own company (with Twitch, Amazon Music, Audible and maybe a few other assets). Apple One becomes its own company (Apple Music, iTunes, TV+, Arcade and so on). And Google spins off Youtube.

Who wins or loses in this scenario?

Winner: Netflix

Say what you will about being bearish on Netflix’s business model, they aren’t a monopoly. Some investors want them to become one (building a “moat”), but a company with only 8% of all viewing in the United States is hardly a monopoly. Indeed, the biggest threat to Netflix, in my mind, is the unlimited cash reserves of Apple and Amazon. If forced to compete on an even playing field, this would benefit Netflix. (With the caveat that multiple new streaming companies on the NASDAQ may impact all share prices simultaneously, for good or ill.)

Winners: Traditional Streamers

Cord cutting is the biggest pain point for traditional media. But the biggest challenge, more than anything, is competing against competitors who don’t have to make money. If Big Tech had to compete on a level playing field–read not deficit financed–traditional media has a much better chance to survive in a streaming world.

Further, there is a big difference between radical disruption (where revenue drops by double digits year over year), and slow evolution (where profit margins slowly decline). Both get to the same place (which is the likely outcome from streaming), but one has a lot less pain for the incumbents and their suppliers. 

Losers: Prime Video and Apple

These seem like the two biggest losers in all this because most folks acknowledge that their streaming business models just aren’t based on actually delivering a valuable product. Phrased differently, no VC firm would invest in Apple TV+ if it weren’t owned by Apple; there is no business plan there. Spun off from their parents, these new media companies would be valuable, but much less invincible.

Losers: AT&T and Comcast

After Big Tech, if Congress wanted to find the industries that are heavily consolidated and hated by customers, cellular and cable are next on their wishlist. (Then health care.) Breaking up Big Cable would probably be the most popular move of the Biden administration. 

Winners: Roku and Sonos

If devices are sold at cost, the independent device makers have a chance to succeed and thrive.

Winners: Talent…probably.

In a lot of ways, the boom of streaming and peak TV is the best of times and the worst of times for talent. More shows and films are being made than ever before, but back end cuts are smaller than ever before. Meanwhile, junior writers work for some of the worst pay in the last few decades. Arguably, with many more streamers who are less powerful, the guilds could negotiate better rates, especially down the line. 

However, this may be offset by the end of the so-called “Drunken Sailor Era” (™ Richard Rushfield) as firms have to start making actual money. So they could cut back on content spend. That means less potential jobs overall.

TBD: Customers

Like talent, this could go either way. On the one hand, it has been great for customers to have multiple firms willing to subsidize cord cutting. The problem is those subsidies are harmful long term and entrenched market power is awful too. So prices could go up, but they’d reflect economic reality. Meanwhile, customer choice would come either way.

The Caveat: All of this is Unlikely

Does a huge break up of Big Tech, including spinning of media firms actually happen? Probably not. But without throwing out random probabilities, it’s probably twice as likely as it was even in August. (So yes, this is like a streamer saying a show grew 50% year over year. 50% of what?)

Yet, Biden was elected President, and that’s huge. Combined with renewed emphasis by the Democratic coalition, and I think corporate consolidation is on the table for change. He’ll likely appoint attorneys general, federal judges and administrators who could put a renewed emphasis on antitrust. That will impact entertainment eventually.

Other Contenders for Most Important Story

Disney Investor Day

Few analysts are (and have been) as bullish on Disney’s streaming future as I have been. I write that to put in context what I’ll write next: I don’t think this Disney Investor’s Day deserves the hype it has been given.

Take a few of the headlines touting “10 New Star Wars and Marvel” series coming to Disney+. That sounds huge. But given that this will take place over the next few years, is it? In context? Take this analysis by Emily Horgan:

Or take my timeline I’ve been using to model Lucasfilm’s financials:

base

And for kids…

kids

In other words, Disney confirmed what I’ve been modeling for a while now. This Star Wars volume is a pinch higher, but considering the volume of one-offs, not that much more than I modeled. But most of Wall Street/the trades seem surprised by it. I’d add there are a few more caveats for why the total volume of content may not match the reality:

– Shows will likely get cancelled. Like Ghost Rider, Benioff and Weiss’ Star Wars Trilogy, Howard the Duck, Rion Johnson’s Star Wars Trilogy, more Han Solo films, and countless other projects over the years.
– A lot of this content is animated and for kids. Which is crucial to Disney’s future, but likely replaces exactly what they were making for Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior. Which we weren’t getting super excited for before streaming times.
– Some of the announcements really are for a long way off (like a Rogue Squadron film in 2023). Most announcements didn’t have dates.

In total, then, I don’t think this is really much more content than Disney was planning on making last year or the year before. Some of it may have shifted from film (previous pitches for movies may have turned into TV series, like potentially Obi-Wan), but it’s probably similar. At the end of the day, it looks like from 2021-2023 we can bank on a Disney live-action adult series every 2 months or so on the platform for Marvel and Star Wars. 

That feels about perfect. If they can keep up the quality, that’s a big slate that will keep folks subscribed. It’s also the “if” that defines all success in entertainment.

(Though Disney+ still has a big hole for adult TV outside of Marvel and Star Wars. That’s a tough hole to fill.)

As for business strategy, the biggest news is no news. Hulu stays where it is. Star is officially becoming Disney’s adult brand globally. ESPN+ will continue expanding, and be available within Hulu. And lastly only one film is “breaking” the theatrical window, with Raya going to Premiere Access (like Mulan’s $30 release) simultaneous with theaters. (I have a feeling it will do much smaller business than Mulan on PA.)

An NFL Update: Ratings are Down, but Good for Broadcast

Is the state of the NFL viewership good or bad? Maybe both. Americans consume NFL football more than any other sport–arguably more than any other type of content period–yet the ratings aren’t as high as past years (down about 8%) because linear TV viewing just isn’t as high as it was (down about 30%). This of course begs the question for what happens next. I can’t see a world where broadcast TV doesn’t nab a few more years of NFL rights, even non-exclusively, but the key question is, “At what price?” Likely they will be high.

Disney+/HBO Max and Comcast Integration

Disney+ and HBO Max will soon be available on Comcast’s Flex operating system. This is a smart next step for both Disney+ and HBO Max. (If anything it should have come sooner.) For all the talk of cord cutting–and there is a lot!–one of the surprising survivors is the cable box. This makes it much easier to reach another big group of customers that Netflix and Prime Video are already reaching.

Data of the Week – The Hallmark Channel Is Still Winning Christmas

Josef Adalian has the details in a recent newsletter, but 3.4 million folks tuned in on one Sunday for a Christmas movie. Linear TV is dead, but it won’t lie down.

M&A Updates

Just because antitrust is back on the agenda doesn’t mean that mergers won’t continue fast and furious. The two latest biggies both have tangential relations to entertainment. Slack is the de facto messaging service of lots of Hollywood, and it was just purchased by Salesforce. Meanwhile, S&P and IHS are merging for a huge price tag because they are both financial data firms. S&P fascinates me because they had earlier purchased SNL Kagan, and Kagan was a tremendous source for entertainment data back in the day.

1.2 Million Folks Bought Mulan in the US During It’s Opening Weeknd: The (Not) Definitive Analysis of Disney’s Mulan Experiment

How many folks bought Mulan?

That’s the buzziest question in the streaming wars right now.

Since we don’t know, we’re left to pick at the analytics tea leaves. Fortunately, as each day passes, we’ve got more tea leaves to pick through.

(Partly, the question is relevant because it gets to the buzziest question, “Who’s winning, Tenet or Mulan?”. I’ll answer that on Wednesday.)

Far from throwing my hands up, I’ve started to realize these tea leaves are signal not noise. So if/until Disney tells us otherwise, I’ve done my best to compile all the Mulan on Disney+ data we have. Consider this a “meta-analysis” on Mulan. First, I’ll summarize each data source and what it tells us, next I’ll try to compare this to Trolls: World Tour, then I’ll compare all the data sources, and finally I’ll make my estimates for Mulan’s performance.

(I covered some of these data points in a column and Tweet thread two weeks ago. Today, I’m updating all that data and tossing in my estimates at the end. Also, if you’re new to the EntStrategyGuy, my newsletter goes out every two weeks with links to my writings and the favorite things I read over the last two weeks.)

To start, though…

Bottom Line, Up Front

Don’t want to read the entire thing? Fine, here are the talking points you can deliver confidently without reading the whole article.

— The story about Mulan’s performance is remarkably consistent, if you ensure you are comparing “Apples to Apples”.
— Right now, I’m fairly confident at estimating that its opening weekend Mulan was purchased about 1.2 million times. (Other estimates range between 1 to 1.5 million, giving us a fairly tight range.)
— That implies that it made about $36 million on its opening in total revenue.
— Based on its rapid decay, the Trolls: World Tour comp and the fact that it will only be in PVOD for 8 weeks, I estimate Mulan will generate about $90 million in US sales over its lifetime. (Based on the estimates, this could be as smalls $75 million and as high as $135 million.)

What We Know: 6 Different Sources Tell a Remarkably Similar Story about Mulan

Disney took a big swing by releasing Mulan straight to Disney+ (and only Disney+) for $30 a pop. That left multiple analytics firms—each vying to get new customers to buy its data, a important point about self-interest to note—to fill in the gap. Reelgood said one thing about the popularity; Samba TV said something else; Antenna said something else and then Yahoo took 7 Park’s data in a completely different direction.

The better analogy than tea leaves is actually the old parable about the elephant and the five blind men. Each grabs a different part of the elephant, so feels something different. That applies to our measurement firms. One is measuring viewership; another purchases; another app downloads. Toss in different time periods and sources, and it seems bewildering.

But if you put the whole picture together, it’s not that confusing. After 7 Park put out a great thread clarifying their data this weekend, I’m fairly convinced each source is telling the roughly same picture.

Source 1: Google Trends

This source is so easy anyone can use it. So be careful. Google tracks search traffic data which has been shown to be a very good proxy for interest. Here’s the time period going back to when Covid-19 started featuring top streaming films:

G Trends - PVOD Comparison

What’s the simple takeaway? Interest in Hamilton far outpaced anything else in the straight-to-streaming space. (See my article in Decider for details.) This, for me, is the context of Mulan.

However, since we’re triangulating on Disney+, it’s also worth looking at a “Disney+ only” look:

G Trends - PVOD Disney Only v02

Mulan was big, but paled in comparison to Hamilton.

Source 2: Antenna

Antenna tracks subscription behavior across a range of services such as iTunes, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Google Play and others. Last week, they released their analysis of Mulan’s opening weekend in this great chart:

Antenna Longer Time Period

This is the most skeptical look I have of Mulan’s huge driver in interest from Disney. Yes, it helped boost sign-ups for Disney+, but less than any other major theatrical driver of the last few months. Also note how this aligns/correlates with Google Trend data, but not perfectly. Black is King did better than Mulan, according to Antenna, but Google Trends has lower interest. (Google Trends has more interest in Artemis Fowl than Black is King.) 

There is a similar story with Frozen 2 driving more sign-ups than Onward according to Antenna, and Google Trends telling an opposite story. (This explanation is fairly simple: Frozen 2 launched right as lockdowns started, so that’s more the story of lockdowns driving parents to subscriber, not interest in Frozen 2.)

Antenna’s data goes further on Mulan. They also used their data to breakdown Mulan purchases by sign-up time period. 

Antenna Subscriber Percentages

Antenna also  released purchases by sign-up time period. So I took those numbers, and combined them with the above chart to give us this estimate of the average % of subscribers who dropped $30 on Mulan:

Antenna Subscriber Purchas Rate

Save that number, we’ll get back to it. But it’s not the only look Antenna provided. They gave some data to LightShed Partners (and then tweeted it), which compares daily sales of various PVOD releases with “purchases by day”:

Antenna Daily Purchases

This is great because we can use a few numbers to compare Trolls: World Tour sales to Mulan. Hang on to this number too. And pay attention to those steep decay curves.

Source 3: 7 Park

7Park is another data analytics firm, though they don’t clarify where and how their data is collected. However, they have been releasing streaming data for a while now.

7 Park entered the data fray this week with a buzzy article on Yahoo, that slightly oversold the analysis. 7 Park measured, through the first 12 days of September (which covers through Saturday of Mulan’s second weekend), the percentage of users who watched Mulan among all Disney+ users during the time period measured. That italicized portion is key. Which is why Mulan could get 29% of streams during its opening weekend, but then a much smaller number when you look at Q3 to date:

7 Park Long Time Period

How does that 10.3% compare to Antenna and Google Trends? Favorably. As 7 Park pointed out in their thread, the demand ratio from Hamilton to Mulan matches Google Trend very well. As for their data versus Antenna, they measure different things. One compares to subscriber base while the other compares to active users. Assuming active users are between 50-75% of the total subscriber based, then the numbers tell a similar story.

Source 4: Samba TV

Samba TV measures viewership on connected TVs specifically. Samba TV also ran an analysis on Mulan viewership, from the opening weekend, coming up with the number that 1.12 million folks purchased Mulan during the opening weekend. It’s unclear if this is connected TV’s only or if they extrapolated out to all customers. Does this match the other numbers? Yes, as we’ll see.

Source 5: Sensor Tower

Sensor Tower measures application downloads. For the streaming wars, they track how often folks are installing streaming application. (Hedgeye analyst extraordinaire Andrew Freedman uses their data to forecast Netflix and Disney+ subscribers fairly well.) According to Sensor Tower, Mulan drove a week-over-week increase in downloads of 68%, which compares to 79% for Hamilton during its opening weekend. This is a bit lower than the Antenna, 7Park or Google Trends data. Sensor Tower only tracks mobile viewing, which may explain the difference.

Source 5: Reelgood

The biggest outlier is Reelgood’s data. Reelgood is an application that helps folks find and curate their streaming offerings. Reelgood uses their data (they claim 2 million users) to then estimate demand for various titles. Here’s their chart with notably the streams as a percentage of top 20 streams.

Reelgood Top 20 copy

This genuinely surprised me since customers had to purchase Mulan, which should have decreased its viewership. Instead, in a follow up, Reelgood said that Mulan actually surpassed Hamilton, which only had 9.68% of streams. This is the only source that implies that demand for Mulan was higher than Hamilton. So it’s our biggest outlier.

Missing Sources

Just to note, of the major sources I track, Nielsen and Parrot Analytics both haven’t entered the Mulan fray. The reason is that both focus on TV series with their publicly available data. (Though Nielsen does have feature film viewership data.)

Trolls Would Tour Comparison

That’s the data, let’s make the comparisons. First, here is the leaked details or estimates of Trolls: World Tour’s performance.

Screen Shot 2020-09-21 at 12.59.08 PM

Unlike Disney (so far), Comcast was much more willing to leak positive data about their Trolls: World Tour experiment. A few things to note, these estimates aren’t quite as steep as Antenna’s data, but match real world churn/decay better. We’ve seen this with other streaming titles where the opening weekend is about half the viewership of the first month or so of a title. And then with trolls the opening month is about half the viewership of the title lifetime to date.

This point may be interesting, but its definitely possible that about as many folks watched Trolls: World Tour after it dropped to $6 to rent then watched at $20. This chart from The-Numbers shows how popular Trolls: World Tour was even 3 months after PVOD:

DEG At home

WIth these numbers, we can compare purchases between Trolls: World Tour and Mulan using Antenna’s data. I did this by measuring the various peaks in the above Antenna chart with purchases by day.  Which made this chart:

Antenna Demand as Trolls

Since they’re decaying at roughly the same rate, we can use this to estimate Mulan sales. In other words, I estimate that Mulan had about 61% of the sales of Trolls: World Tour on PVOD. The caveat is that Mulan is available in less places than Trolls or Scoob, meaning demand could have been as high, but without additional TVOD channels it reached less customers. But that still results in lower sales/demand.

Comparing all the Sources

Wow. So if you’re still with me, here’s my summary of everything we know. Here are the estimates I derived for purchases for the first weekend, where the data allowed me to make that estimate:

Summary Comparison v01

Let me explain this. Given that Antenna and 7 Park are percentages of subscribers or active users, the 15-35 million are potential ranges of Disney subscribers/users. Then I picked the number that is my current “best guess” for each. In other words, I think Disney+ has about 30 million US subscribers, and about 20 million active users in a given quarter. If you disagree, pick another input. For Samba TV, I just used their estimates. For Trolls: World Tour I multiplied the estimated 2.25 million Trolls opening weekend customers (40 million divided by $20) by 61%, the rough proportion from the chart above.

All these sources say about 1.1-1.4 million folks watched on the opening weekend. Splitting the difference, and picking the number I like best, gives me an estimate of 1.2 million.

From there, we can estimate lifetime sales. I’m using my estimate that opening weekend will generate 50% of the first month’s sales. Both Antenna and Google Trends back this up. For example, it has already seen a second weekend drop in demand of about 75% in Google Trends. Also, given this decay, I think its second month will only see about 20% more sales:

Summary Estimate Lifetime

Using best case scenarios (33% viewing in the second month, 1.5 million opening weekend), I get to $135 million lifetime PVOD. Using worst case, I get to $75 million.

Phew. I’m wiped out. There are tons more issues to unpack, especially how this compares to Tenet. But I’ll do that next time.