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Nielsen launches weekly top 10 list of most popular shows on streaming platforms

Aidan Gallagher of the Neflix series "The Umbrella Academy."
Aidan Gallagher of the Neflix series “The Umbrella Academy.”
(Christos Kalohoridis / Netflix)

In another sign of the changing TV times, audience measurement firm Nielsen is releasing a weekly ranking of the most popular shows on streaming platforms.

While paying customers for Nielsen data have long had access to streaming audience numbers, the press and the public have had limited access, unlike traditional TV ratings, which have been regularly reported on for decades. As streaming has been rapidly adapted by consumers, the New York-based company is making figures available on its website for the top 10 most watched shows each week.

“We’ve worked closely with our clients since the introduction of the service, and believe streaming video on demand has evolved to the point where sharing top line data publicly on a regular cadence made sense, particularly when you consider the amount of usage attributable to it,” said Brian Fuhrer, senior vice president, product leadership for Nielsen.

The data Nielsen are releasing include programs shown on Netflix and Amazon Prime, the two largest streaming services. The company said it will add data from other services going forward.

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The Nielsen rankings will help give the public a more consistent picture of what is being watched on Netflix, which has been selective in its dissemination of viewing data for its programming, often to the frustration of the creative community in Hollywood.

The data Nielsen collect on streaming will be from the homes that it already uses to gather TV viewing information. The current sample consist of 100,000 people in more than 64,000 U.S. homes. The streaming data will count only on programs watched on TV screens and not on mobile devices.

While Nielsen’s TV ratings count the average number of people watching a program episode, viewing levels for streaming services will be offered in the total number of minutes a series is screened. The number does not reflect the number of people streaming, but it does provide a snapshot of the passion consumers have for particular shows.

The first week of rankings released are all programs shown on Netflix. The list is topped by the Netflix original superhero drama “The Umbrella Academy,” with its 20 episodes streamed for a total of 3 million minutes for the week of Aug. 3-9.

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After seeing Netflix eat away at their TV businesses, legacy media are targeting the streaming rights for classics like “Seinfeld” and “The Office.”

The Showtime series “Shameless” ranked second, with 1.1 million minutes viewed for 121 episodes.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” a Netflix viewer favorite for years, ranked third, with 918,000 minutes for its 361 episodes.

“The Office,” which will move exclusively to the NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock in 2021, remains popular with Netflix viewers, as its 197 episodes were streamed for 897,000 minutes.

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Steve Carell on "The Office."
Steve Carell as Michael Scott, Dunder-Mifflin’s goofy manager, on “The Office.”
(Chris Haston / NBC)

“Criminal Minds,” a major hit on CBS for years that has found a new following among younger audiences on streaming platforms, ranked fifth, with 697,000 minutes viewed. There are 277 episodes available on Netflix.

“NCIS,” the long-running CBS hit that remains the most-watched drama on network television, is popular on Netflix as well, with 524,000 minutes viewed. Netflix currently offers 353 episodes.

“In the Dark,” a CW drama with nominal ratings on TV, has been a success with streaming audiences. It ranked seventh for the week, with 418,000 minutes viewed over 26 episodes.

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Perry Mattfeld and Casey Diedrick in the CW series "In the Dark."
Perry Mattfeld and Casey Diedrick in the CW series “In the Dark.”
(Ben Mark Holzberg / The CW)

Showtime’s “Dexter,” a crime series that has not been in production since 2013, ranked eighth, with 316,000 minutes viewed over 96 episodes.

The CW’s long-running hit “Supernatural” was ninth, with 315,000 minutes viewed over 321 episodes.

NBCUniversal’s “Parks and Recreation” was 10th, with 304,000 minutes viewed over 121 episodes on Netflix. The sitcom, which also streams on Amazon and Hulu, will move exclusively to Peacock in October.


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