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Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings special report: Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi

3 minute read | Brian Fuhrer, SVP, Product Strategy & Thought Leadership | June 2022

In what was arguably the most anticipated weekend ever in streaming, the first seven episodes of Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 4 squared off against the latest release from the Star Wars canon, episodes 1 and 2 of Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. To better understand the impact of these new streaming releases, we dove into the viewing data for both series during May 23-May 29, 2022, using Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings, which provides syndicated measurement of programs and episodes by streaming service. 

Despite the slightly earlier release of Obi-Wan when compared with the new Stranger Things content, the previously available seasons, coupled with the number of episodes released, resulted in an insurmountable minutes viewed advantage for team Stranger Things. The kids from Hawkins (the fictitious town in Stranger Things) delivered 5.1 billion viewing minutes across the four seasons compared to 1 billion for the famous Jedi knight. But it’s important to understand the overall context of both of these premieres, and the underlying calculations. To date, we have been looking at streaming audiences based on minutes, but here we will add other statistics for additional perspective and comparison. 

The release of Stranger Things Season 4 made it only the third title to ever break the 5 billion weekly viewing minute mark and places it third overall (Tiger King had 5.3 billion and Ozark notched 5.2 billion, both during the pandemic lockdown period in March 2020). The current seven episodes of Season 4 (two more are to follow in July) accounted for over 4 billion minutes by themselves.

For Disney+, Obi-Wan Kenobi represents the largest original series premiere weekend ever on Disney+, and it is only the third non-movie title on the streamer to exceed 1 billion viewing minutes. (Loki also did it twice in July 2021 but with five episodes and the following week with six).

But minutes viewed provides an advantage to programs that have more content either through multiple seasons, more episodes or longer duration episodes. From a “minutes available” perspective, Stranger Things has a distinct advantage in all three categories with 32 episodes versus two for Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as longer durations within those 32 episodes. But for a more direct comparison of the two premieres, we will focus on the first episode of each release (Stranger Things Season 4, Episode 1 and Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 1, Episode 1) and look at the total viewers in the average minute of each episode.

Aligning the two episodes, it’s clear that Disney+ had a solid start with projected viewers in the average minute on Friday. In that case, the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi achieved a 4% advantage over the corresponding Stranger Things episode (6.2 million total viewers vs. 6.0 million total viewers) and won the first full day of availability. However, looking at the entire premiere weekend tally, Stranger Things Episode 1 attracted 12.7 million viewers in the average minute versus Obi-Wan Episode 1’s 11.2 million viewers.

Conversely, when we look at minutes viewed, the difference in episode duration (53 minutes for Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 1, Episode 1 vs. 76 minutes for Stranger Things Season 4, Episode 1) becomes more apparent and, along with the receptive consumers themselves, helps provide Stranger Things with a 38% advantage for Friday and a 63% tilt by the end of the weekend.

No matter how you calculate it, streaming has kicked off the summer of 2022 with two blockbusters, much to the delight of viewers who responded with a combined 6.2 billion viewing minutes.

And with more releases scheduled throughout the next few months, we’ll continue to monitor Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings, which enable our clients to understand audience behavior across linear and streaming content to most effectively position and value their programming. The Streaming Content Ratings service provides coverage of content across Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, AppleTV,+, with plans to expand to other services in the near future.