Tag: The Crew

Netflix Claims the Top Spots While Disney+/Hulu Dominate the Film List: The Streaming Ratings Report for 31-Mar-2021

Last week, the Nielsen Top Ten lists broke new ground when Hulu had its first title earn a spot on one of the three lists. This week, Hulu doubled its performance, earning two spots!

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As always, caveats abound. In particular, the top films have much less “total viewership” than TV series, since they simply aren’t as long, almost by definition. (A film is 2 hours, whereas most drama series are at least 4 hours, often 10 hours long.) This point is worth keeping in mind as the theme of this week, especially as we check in on how “competitive” the streaming wars are in top content.

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report primarily covers data from Nielsen’s latest report, which covers the week of February 22nd to 28th and is United States-focused. However, we also consider Netflix datecdotes, daily top ten lists, Google Trends and IMDb data in evaluating content.)

Television

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As usual, the top spot on our weekly top 30 list is from Netflix, but close on its heels is the indefatigable WandaVision, whose penultimate episode powered its way to the second place spot on the “Top Ten Originals” list by Nielsen. (Along with a new record in viewing.) Based on Google Trends interest, we can rightly bet that the finale will go even higher. We’ll have to wait to see if it takes the top spot next week. 

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The show vying to keep it off the list is Netflix’s new drama Ginny & Georgia. At first glance, its opening weekend was a bit soft, below stronger debuts from both Firefly Lane and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. To put this in context, here’s the first two weeks of Netflix’s first run TV series since November:

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I’d call a show with 30 million viewers in one week “great”, and 20-30 million “good”, and 10-20 million “meh”. (Yes, “meh” is a technical term.) Staying below is 10 million is a dud. Ginny & Georgia is currently in our “meh” tier through week one. The bad news for Ginny & Georgia is that most shows don’t increase viewership over time. Here’s a sample of first run shows that premiered since December:

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In this admittedly small sample size, 7 shows had smaller audiences and only two had bigger second weeks. But there is some good news for G&G. Some shows can take time find their footing, as both The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton showed last year. As the Google Trends chart showed, unlike most Netflix shows, Ginny & Georgia had a slower rise than most new releases. But it looks like that rise will hold; G&G nabbed the top spot in the Netflix TV like it daily top ten list, which is a good forecaster of Nielsen ratings. (More to come on this in future articles.)

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The one limit to top ten data is that a show can take the top spot, but that could be more of a reflection of a light TV slate than a strong individual show. Given that it looks like G&G sticks around for a few week, I’d say it has a good chance for a strong second week. We’ll see. 

Other Quick Notes on TV

– I’m working on classifying everything into “kids” versus “adult” (but not adult meaning “pornography”, I mean like older folks). This week felt light on true kids content in the TV space, with only Cocomelon holding down the younger kids fort. Cocomelon is clearly the biggest beneficiary of kids watching and rewatching the same limited number of episodes. 

The Crew had a fairly steep drop off from a weak start, so we can officially say it bombed. Yes, that’s a bit harsh, but hey, you’re not tuning in to a ratings report for me to pull my punches, are you? Overall, sitcoms do seem to struggle in the metrics (including, datecdotes, Nielsen and weekly top ten). Either 1. Streaming doesn’t work for sitcoms or 2. Netflix doesn’t have nearly as good a track record with sitcoms as hour dramas. (Before you ask, yes I’ve considered that sitcoms have shorter episodes, but the success of some of the Netflix crime documentaries, which can be shorter than sitcom seasons, refutes that. Moreover, that should’t impact subscriber households. More to come!)

Film

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Let’s start with the content geared towards adults first. I Care A Lot had a bigger second week than its premiere week, which has been the trend for popular films launched on a Friday. Being able to hold onto the third spot in the weekly top ten is great for a feature film, though also some evidence that the week was lighter in content overall.

Meanwhile, Nomadland stayed on the list and The United States versus Billie Holiday made it onto the top ten. For Hulu, this is good news. But they still have quite a ways to go. 

Consider this: we know Hulu has about half as many subscribers as Netflix in the US. (About 40 million for Hulu; about 65 million for Netflix.) Assuming these three films were all about the same length (they were), and everyone watched about the same amount, then roughly 1 out of every 38 Hulu subscribers watched Billie Holiday and 1 in every 20 watched Nomadland, but 1 in every 5 Netflix subscribers tuned into I Care A Lot. 

Maybe I Care A Lot is simply a better film with more inherent interest. More likely, Netflix is still the biggest player in the streaming game. That means it can drive extra viewing to its titles, which is the biggest challenge for the upstart streamers to battle.

Moving onto kids, the big player is still Disney, which placed four kids films into the top 10, including the second week of Flora & Ulysses. (Using the percentage of viewership, about 1 in 10 Disney+ subscribers watched that in its first two weeks.) Meanwhile, Disney as a whole grabbed 7 of the top ten film slots, though Netflix’s animated Bigfoot Family came in second to I Care A Lot. In other words, Disney claims the library title slots, but Netflix claims the “new release” spots. 

Other Quick Notes on Film

The Conjuring 2, a licensed title from 2016, is the latest library title to take the top spot after being a new release on Netflix. This title is owned long term by Warner Bros, so it joins the list of titles that one wonders when it will permanently move to HBO Max.

– Another good international title launch. Bigfoot Family is a Belgian-French production and it debuted to the second spot in the film top ten list. Some other foreign animated titles have done well as well, most notably the Spanish-produced Klaus. My working (and not very original) theory is that dubbing is simply easier in animation.

Competition

The theme of this week may be “let’s not get carried away” with Hulu catching up to Netflix. (And the rest of the streamers as well.) As notable as it is that Disney dominates the film list, the film list, that is frankly an easier list to dominate as a smaller service. The rule of thumb at the streamers is that “films bring customers; TV keeps them”. 

Hulu, of all the streamers, should be great at the TV side of the house, given how much day-after-air TV they have. Yet, they still haven’t really cracked these lists in TV. But they did in film. Looking at the percentage of viewing by the major streamers this year, clearly Netflix’s size is still dominant:

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Last point: This was the lowest week in total viewing measured in the top 30 list since Nielsen began releasing it this year, with 207 million total hours compared to 290 during the Christmas break.

Coming Soon! 

– We’re starting to get hints that the Snyder cut of the Justice League really is doing the business for HBO Max. Both Antenna and Samba TV have speculated on the growth it drove. I’ll opine on this after I’ve collected all the datecdotes and, hopefully, we get Nielsen data on it. (Same for Raya and the Last Dragon, which should come next week.)

– Netflix has released a stream of datecdotes recently, but the most interesting was announcing that in addition to 33 million viewers at launch, Our Planet has had 100 million viewers over its lifetime. This number begs for context, so I’ll work on it. (That’s the third “more to come” of this column.)

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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:

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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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.)

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Film

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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.)

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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:

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– 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.)