Nielsen released their Top 10 Streamed Programs for 2020 (U.S.) in three categories:
- Acquisitions and
Their key metric is Minutes-Streamed-per-Show.
- In the Originals category, the Top 10 is led by OZARK with 30.5 billion views in 2020.
- TIGER KING is #4 with 15.6 billion views.
When I looked deeper into the data, I saw positive news for Unscripted / Documentary professionals.
Here is the list:
TOP STREAMING CONTENT OF 2020 – ORIGINAL SERIES
# of Episodes
Minutes Streamed (Nearest Million)
|6||THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY||Netflix||20||13,470|
|7||GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW||Netflix||65||13,279|
|8||BOSS BABY: BACK IN BUSINESS||Netflix||49||12,625|
TIGER KING wins the Streams-per-Episode race
- I re-ranked the Top 10, adding a new measure of success: Minutes-Streamed-per-Episode:
- There were 30 episodes of Ozark, and only 8 of Tiger King.
- Tiger King (2 billion) doubles Ozark (1 billion) in Streams-per-Episode.
|Rank||Program||SVOD Provider||# of Episodes||Minutes Streamed (Nearest Million)||Minutes Streamed / Episode (Million)|
|4||THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY||Netflix||20||13,470||674|
|7||BOSS BABY: BACK IN BUSINESS||Netflix||49||12,625||258|
|9||GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW||Netflix||65||13,279||204|
Per Subscriber Streams
Let’s take my back-of-envelope analysis a bit further:
- There were on average around 70 million U.S. Netflix subscribers in 2020.
- The average Minutes-Streamed-per-Subscriber was 28 for Tiger King, 14 for Ozark and 3 for Great British Baking Show.
The Nielsen data testifies to the economic power of the Unscripted category:
- The estimated production cost of a premium unscripted episode is a fraction of the cost of top scripted series.
- The estimated budget of:
- Tiger King – $2 million / episode
- The Crown – $10 million per / episode
- Its not quite apples-to-apples because The Crown is a multi-season series…
- However, we can make a case that in 2020 Tiger King (1.9 Bn) gathered 5 times the Minutes-Streamed-per-Episode versus The Crown (0.4 Bn), and at around 20% of the cost per episode.
My Big Takeaway: “So what?”
- You might be asking: “What does that Reality freak show Tiger King have to do with my documentary project?”
- The biggest winner of Tiger King’s success is the Netflix Unscripted team who developed the series.
- Their success gives them a green light to expand their pipeline to commission more unscripted Originals, ranging from Reality to curated feature documentaries.
Television is a copy-the-leader business:
- Disney+ (with Nat Geo), HBO Max and the others competing for streaming market share all see the unscripted category as an undisputed pillar of their future success.
- And that’s a good thing for the documentary community!
- It somewhat offsets the trend for the channels to trim their spend on commissions as viewers continue to shift to streaming.
TOP STREAMING CONTENT OF 2020 – ACQUIRED SERIES
There’s another important Takeaway from the Nielsen data:
- The Total Minutes Streamed of reruns of Netflix’s top ranked Acquisitions far exceed the performance of Originals in the U.S.
- Below are the Top 5 Acquisitions.
- However, Netflix Originals build the brand: They ignite the buzz that wins awards and attracts / retains subscribers.
- Tiger King (28 ) and Ozark (14) also earn more views per subscriber per episode than The Office (4.3) and Grey’s Anatomy (1.4).
|Rank||Program||SVOD Provider||# of Episodes||Minutes Streamed (Nearest Million)||Minutes Streamed / Episode (Million)||Minutes Streamed per Ep per Sub (Million)|
Nielsen’s Streaming Report
- Don’t miss the full report here TOPS OF 2020: NIELSEN STREAMING UNWRAPPED
More to Read / Listen
- Netflix’s 3.3 Bn Minutes Viewed in a Week for THE CROWN. What it might mean for Unscripted. Dan Salerno’s Takeaways
- And coverage of how The Crown lit a social media fuse under the documentary DIANA IN HER OWN WORDS. A podcast with Tom Jennings.
- And Selling MY OCTOPUS TEACHER TO NETFLIX. My podcast with Ellen Windemuth.