Commentary

Determining The Top Streaming Show Is Tricky

What are we to make of Nielsen’s relatively new weekly listing of top streaming TV shows/movies — especially when platforms are all different sizes and shapes?

For the most recent reporting week ending December 27, the three top-performing programs, according to Nielsen, are HBO Max’s “Wonder Woman 1984” (2.3 billion minutes for persons two years and older); Disney+'s ’ “Soul” (1.7 billion), and Netflix’s “The Office” (1.4 billion).

But this may not tell the whole story. Many top 10 lists in recent periods have had Netflix dominating with most shows overall — sometimes all 10 when it comes to minutes viewed.

Looking deeper, we can understand why: The bigger the platform, the greater the chance for most total minutes consumed.

For example, Netflix has 73 million viewers in the U.S., while Disney+ has about 40 million. HBO Max has a more complicated picture, ending 2020 with 17.2 million new “activated” subscribers. It also has 37.7 million who have “access” to HBO Max — that is, existing HBO linear TV network subscribers.

All this should be factored into consideration of program performance.

Still, that “Wonder Woman 1984” came out on top is a credit to HBO Max's big promotion efforts. The movie was released simultaneously on December 25 on HBO Max and in theaters.

For the most recent Nielsen reporting, Netflix had seven of the top 10 streaming shows. After “The Office” (now at Peacock) tallying 1.44 billion total minutes viewed, the Netflix original series “Bridgerton” hit 1.2 billion minutes, good for fourth place.

Other Netflix contenders in the top 10 streaming TV week were the movie “The Midnight Sky,” “How the Grinch Stole Xmas,” original TV series “The Crown,” acquired Netflix series “Grey’s Anatomy,” and the movie “Christmas Chronicles 2.”

This quick snapshot of the current week might lead many to believe HBO Max and Disney+ are more efficient when it comes to giving their subscribers what they want — a specific content target. That said, Netflix’s results could offer up a different perspective — that it can spread its big programming library around to different audiences.

What’s the value here?

Unlike some traditional TV ratings — ones that skew to what they bring to marketers — one of these shows is ad-supported. The value then comes from overall consumer popularity (for those platforms to consider) and TV show producers in figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Who’s on top for the long term? We wonder. So consider a snapshot.

1 comment about "Determining The Top Streaming Show Is Tricky".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, February 2, 2021 at 6:58 p.m.

    Great points Wayne.

    One way of looking at it, is that using the "total minutes viewed" is akin to a P2+ Rating (i.e. tonnage and a greater chance of an ad being seen), whereas a metric such as "views" (or "plays") is akin to the P2+ Reach (i.e. breadth but it may conceal a reduced chance of an ad being seen as they may have only 'watched' for, say, 1 or 2 minutes).

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