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‘Stranger Things’ vs. ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’: Measurement of this summer’s streaming showdown

‘Stranger Things’ vs.  ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’: Measurement of this summer’s streaming showdown

Which came out on top in this summer’s big streaming showdown of “Stranger Things” vs. “Obi-Wan Kenobi”? Despite the data now available, we still do not know completely.

As expected, “Stranger Things 4” delivered large ratings for Netflix. “Volume 1” of the popular sci-fi series’ fourth season came out on top biggest premiere weekend ever for an English-language show on the platform, with more than 286 million hours watched, the streamer reported. Even with Nielsen’s reduced numbers, the numbers were enormous: According to the TV ranking giant, “Stranger Things 4” was seen for over 4 billion minutes, or 66.7 million hours, the first weekend.

The season has remained strong in the following weeks, dominating Netflix’s “Top 10” list of the most streamed content each week since its debut, although the weekly viewership has declined over time. Most recently, “Stranger Things 4” collected another 102 million hours for the week 13-19. June, per Netflix data; it has also surpassed “Bridgerton” as the service most set English language series.

Meanwhile, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” achieved a record-breaking premiere for Disney +, according to Nielsen, with more than 1 billion minutes, or 16.7 million hours, of viewing time – obviously far behind “Stranger Things”. (A warning to note here: Nielsen’s power measurements only count in the US – and only on TVs, not computers or other devices, which is one of the reasons why it has received criticism to experienced inaccuracy.)

But just comparing the viewing time of the two programs is not a sufficient calculation in this case. After all, “Stranger Things” had seven new episodes available to watch in its premiere weekend, with playing times ranging from 63 to 100 minutes; “Obi-Wan” had only two, both under an hour long.

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For that reason, Nielsen also calculated the “total number of viewers in the average minute” of both series’ premiere episodes. “Stranger Things” had the advantage here too, with 12.7 million viewers in the first minute of the first episode, against 11.2 million for “Obi-Wan”.

So no matter how you divide it up, it looks like “Stranger Things” has come out on top, at least for now. “Obi-Wan” has continued to release episodes weekly (the final premieres on Wednesday), and limited viewer data will continue to roll out in the coming weeks. Unlike Netflix, Disney + does not reveal any numbers at all, and Nielsen’s numbers are usually several weeks late. We get a better picture, but not a complete picture, of how “Obi-Wan” performed overall when these numbers come.

But even these numbers – or viewer numbers – are not enough to really measure the results of these programs.

The conditions for success in streaming change dramatically, and judging a series’ true value for a platform is consequently becoming more complicated than ever. Like movies, original streaming programs must deliver large numbers quickly or risk being written off as a failure (especially on Netflix). They must help attract subscribers, but increasingly they must also help convince existing subscribers to stick with it and not just withdraw when they have finished watching a given program.

As such, a series is less important than the service’s library, but the library must continue to grow to keep its subscriber base growing, says conventional wisdom. To do that, a lot of money has to be spent on content, but now investors are starting to become skeptical of these expenses.

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As the power business develops, series must begin to justify their expenses by visibly contributing to the profitability of the services. To do so, answers to many, many unanswered questions will be needed.

Take “Stranger Things.” We know that the arrival of season 4 gave an increase in viewership for the series as a whole, since Netflix’s top 10 ranking has also shown seasons 1-3 since season 4 premiered. We also know that season 3 garnered 582.1 million hours of viewing over the first 28 days, while season 4 has become Netflix’s most popular season of English-language television ever, with over 883 million hours.

But we do not know the total viewing time or the number of viewers for “Stranger Things” over the entire run, or any context for the numbers Netflix has chosen to report. How much of that viewing time for previous seasons came from fans who watched the show again, and how much came from new subscribers who watched it for the first time?

And if these viewers quit and cancel their subscriptions after “Stranger Things 4” drops the remaining episodes next month, how much revenue will the program actually generate, especially with the big movie budget?

These are questions Netflix – and Disney, for that matter – will soon have to answer, like theirs attempts at advertising will require much more disclosure and accountability than the streamers have previously been willing to provide. In the new streaming landscape, even a juggernaut like “Stranger Things” does not mean as much as before.

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