Nielsen’s subscription streaming program rankings returned with a revised format, a week after the research coming experienced, er, second thoughts on how to handle the Christmas-week exclusion of HBO Max and Wonder Woman 1984, and went back to the drawing board.
For its latest streaming rankings, which cover the week of Dec. 28 - Jan. 3, Nielsen didn’t permanently add the relatively smaller HBO Max service to its rankings. For now, Nielsen continues to just cover the four biggest SVOD platforms in the U.S.— Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney Plus. But Nielsen said that it is attempting to provide “a broader, more inclusive” look at streaming content week to week. And instead of just one chart, listing the top SVOD series and movies by total minutes viewed, Nielsen is now publishing four lists covering subscription streaming: in addition to the master ranker of all major SVOD shows, it’s now also publishing specific lists for original series, acquired series and movies.
Breaking down the rankers this way makes a lot of sense, given the “long-tail” advantage of acquired TV series. Since Nielsen’s rankings are based on total minutes streamed of a show, acquired series like The Office, which has 192 episodes, have an inherent advantage over original series like Bridgerton, which has only eight episodes in the can at this point, not to mention one-off movies like Soul.
Per usual, Netflix, which has more than 73 million U.S. subscribers, dominated each of the four lists.
The Shonda Rhimes-produced, Regency period-set romantic drama Bridgerton was, not surprisingly, a big winner, capturing more than 2.6 billion minutes of total viewing and ranking No. 1 on both the legacy and original series lists.
Last week, Netflix declared Bridgerton, which premiered on Christmas Day, its most watched original series of all time, with at least two minutes of its eight first-season episodes viewed by 82 million households worldwide within the first 28 days of premiere. That's Netflix's first-party "apples" approach
Back to Nielsen's third-party "oranges" system, the period drama proved such a draw, it overshadowed the anticipated third-season premiere of Karate Kid spinoff series Cobra Kai, which debuted Jan. 1 and drew 2,606 minutes of U.S. viewing within three days, according to Nielsen. It should be noted that each episode of Cobra Kai is sitcom length, and significantly shorter than Bridgerton--a key factor when measuring "minutes viewed." Cobra Kai also had only three days of measurement in the frame vs. a full seven for Bridgerton.
But still ... there's a reason why Netflix paid Rhimes $100 million and just re-upped her latest show for season 2.
Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian, still going strong more than a week after its Dec. 18 season 2 finale, was the only non-Netflix program on the Dec. 27 - Jan 3. originals list, with its 16-posted episodes garnering 707 billion minutes of total viewing. Two weeks prior, the season finale did the seemingly impossible and stole the top spot from Netflix for the first time.
Also notable was The Office, which departed Netflix for Peacock on Jan 1. Despite Netflix doing very little to make the show visible to its users as the series prepared its transition to a competitor, The Office’s nearly 200 posted episodes garnered 937 billion minutes of total viewing in only three short remaining days on Netflix, putting it at the top spot on Nielsen’s brand new top 10 acquired content list and in the fifth spot on the legacy all-inclusive SVOD rankings.
Disney-Pixar film Soul, meanwhile, was the most watched movie on the four subscription video-on-demand services Nielsen measures for the week of Dec. 28, commanding just over 1.3 billion combined minutes of Disney Plus viewing.
Notably, Soul was at the center of a ratings discussion last week, with Nielsen ranking the film No. 1 on the singular legacy streaming list for the week of Dec. 21-27, ahead of HBO Max’s Wonder Woman 1984, which also debuted Christmas Day.
UPDATED 2/5/2021: An earlier version of this story described a "kerfuffle" between HBO Max parent WarnerMedia and Nielsen, with the media company, a Nielsen client, pushing back on the research company's exclusion of its film. However, sources close to Nielsen denied there was ever any friction between the two companies.
Regardless of the motivating factors, Nielsen subsequently published an “addendum,” in which it counted HBO Max content for the first—and for now, the only—time. WW84 topped Soul on that specially published list.
Three other Disney Plus films – Frozen II, Mulan (2020) and Moana – also made the new top 10 movie ranker. Rango, a 2011 Paramount animated film voice starring Johnny Depp, came in eighth place for Amazon, garnering 161 billion views.
Nielsen published its Christmas-week streaming list (Dec. 21-Dec. 27) on Jan. 22. Amid the WarnerMedia rancor, it didn't publish a new ranker for Dec. 28-Jan. 3 until Thursday.
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