Was Pixar's 'Turning Red' Really No. 1? It Looks Like Nielsen Is Still Short-Changing Netflix in Its 'Weekly Streaming Top 10'

Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in Netflix's 'Inventing Anna'
As Anna Delvey might bluntly say, "Your numbers are wrong." (Image credit: Aaron Epstein/Netflix)

In January, Next TV called out Nielsen and suggested there might be issues with its "Weekly Streaming Top 10" report, noting that its metrics for the Netflix movie Don't Look Up looked conspicuously low compared to numbers Netflix puts out weekly for its own shows.

Nielsen responded, at the bottom of its following week report, that some of the shows in its Dec. 20-26 rankings, including Don't Look Up, had indeed been "under-credited." Nielsen's corrected premiere week figure for Don't Look Up was not only triple its original tally, it vaulted the movie ahead of Disney's Encanto. That quietly rendered all the previous week's headlines in publications like ours, touting Encanto as the streaming champ of Christmas week based on Nielsen's report, wrong. 

Once again, we see problems with Netflix rankings in Nielsen's latest Weekly Streaming Top 10 for the week of March 7-13, which just declared Disney Plus Pixar movie Turning Red the ratings champ.

The report has been widely picked up. 

"'Turning Red' Debuts at No. 1 on Nielsen’s Streaming Top 10," read a Thursday afternoon post on Variety

"Pixar's 'Turning Red' Tops Nielsen Streaming Chart," added Deadline.

Meanwhile, Media Play News noted, "Nielsen: Disney's 'Turning Red' Heir Apparent to 'Encanto'". (And until recently, Next TV ran weekly summaries of Nielsen's streaming rankings, as well.)

So Turning Red was deemed the ratings champ for the week, which is hard to dispute, since few, if any, metrics on the Disney Plus shows are publicly available. 

But Netflix started publishing its own numbers in weekly reports, on a somewhat immediate basis, in September of last year. 

For the week of March 7-13, Nielsen ranked Netflix's The Last Kingdom, Pieces of Her, The Adam Project, Inventing Anna and Good Girls Nos. 1-6.

For Netlfix's own tally for that same period, Toni Collette super-spy-mom thriller Pieces of Her was the platform's No. 1 show of any kind that week, with 95.7 million viewing hours globally on the Netflix platform. Translating Netflix's hourly "apples" to Nielsen's minute-based oranges, that works out to 5.743 billion viewing minutes ... on a global basis.

Nielsen, meanwhile, claims Pieces of Her was the No. 3 show in the U.S. for that same period, capturing 1.415 billion viewing minutes domestically.

Here's where it gets tricky for us.

That would mean that Pieces of Her, an American-made, English-language movie, running on a platform with 35% of its 222 million global subscribers residing in the U.S. and Canada, captured less than 25% of its audience in the U.S. The calculation becomes even dicier when you confine Pieces of Her's market to just the English-language world, for which Netflix's U.S. subscriber share accounts for far more than 35% of the total base.

Nielsen, meanwhile, ranked Netflix Viking-conquest series The Last Kingdom No. 2 with 1.423 billion U.S. viewing minutes from March 7-13, vs. 3.81 billion global minutes reported by Netflix. With that series shot in the UK, it seems entirely plausible that The Last Kingdom garnered only 37% of its audience in the U.S. 

But things again become tricky with Ryan Reynolds comedy action hit The Adam Project, which Netflix claims captured only 1.36 billion viewing minutes in the U.S. over its debut weekend (March 11-13).

Netflix said the film captured 5.545 billion streaming minutes in its first three days. If both Nielsen and Netflix are right, that would mean an English-language movie filmed in Canada, with a Canadian star (Reynolds) and director (Shawn Levy), captured just under 25% of its debut viewing in the U.S.

Of course, as its steady stream of local language hits suggests, Netflix is a global platform, so the possibilities for outsized performances in international territories certainly exists. 

And it's also certainly possible that Netflix, which is seemingly on safer ground measuring its own platform, is wrong.

However, combine Nielsen's fairly invisible mea culpa in January, with its caginess during our January email discussion -- the company still hasn't hopped on that phone call its press rep suggested -- and we're suspicious regarding the numbers published on its end. (Note: We put out another phoner request Thursday.)

And if there is a problem with Nielsen's methodology, it might not be confined to Netflix shows -- Netflix, publishing its Global Top 10 weekly since September, is the only SVOD service for which we have a comparative baseline.

Certainly, given that we're talking about a research company that was just sold to private equity for $16 billion, accuracy matters.

And this is particularly true in a streaming video business bereft of vitally needed third-party program metrics, into which Nielsen is once again trying to assert its primacy. ■

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!