September 2022 was a busy month for streaming. The busiest ever, if you ask experts, as two huge series faced each other in one important battle for the Streaming Wars, but did Netflix ultimately win the battle with Dahmer? It’s not an easy question to answer but let’s try and figure it out.
Note: This post is a translation of a post published in my French-language newsletter, Netflix & Chiffres.
House of the Dragon and Rings of Power are not new series in the sense that they are spin-offs or prequels of existing IPs, and their showdown was expected the fantasy smackdown of the decade.. until Dahmer, a new contender, entered the arena hailing from Ryan Murphy and based on the true story of one of the most famous American serial killers.
So now that the dust has settled on the battlefield, which one won? Can we even tell?
In this analysis, we will use different numbers from different methodologies and different sources, which makes it very difficult to truly compare the performance of the various series.
We will also use the metric we refer to as CVE or Complete Viewings Equivalent. That means we divide the hours viewed announced by Netflix by the runtime of films or series. It allows for better comparisons between series, but it’s not an audience metric either and should not be used as such.
Who won in the United States?
In the US, we will first and foremost use Nielsen’s data, but it should be noted that episodes of Rings of Power and House of the Dragon were both released weekly, whereas Dahmer was a binge-released series. However, it is possible using CVE to compare the three series starting from when the two weekly series finished releasing of all their episodes. Here is what it looks like.
40 days after its release, Dahmer reached 23.5 million CVEs in the US whilst Rings of Power totaled 15.1M CVEs, a number that reached 15.4M CVEs the week after.
House of the Dragon was around the 15.2M CVEs mark on the 30th of October, and we can see that its curve was a bit more ascendant than Rings of Power.
Furthermore, the numbers for House of the Dragon per Nielsen only account for the viewings on HBO Max, the streaming service, but the series was also watched widely live on HBO across multiple viewings.
That prompted Warner Bros Discovery to release a press release taunting an average of 29 million viewers for each episode of House of the Dragon during its broadcast.
Viewers and CVEs are not comparable so let’s put a pin on that for the time being.
All that we can tell, judging from Nielsen’s numbers, is that presumably, both Dahmer and House of the Dragon were watched more in the US than Rings of Power. As for which series was most watched between Dahmer and House of the Dragon, there is no way to know for sure but my gut says that House of the Dragon was probably a little more watched than Dahmer.
Let’s look at online demand as analyzed by Parrot Analytics. We also find out that House of the Dragon seems to have maintained a high level of interest over time, far ahead of Rings of Power, while Dahmer shot quickly to the top of the charts and then decreased, which generally happens with binge-released series.
However, it’s worth noting that if we look at how online demand is four weeks after the release of all episodes, Dahmer still had 28.6 times the demand of an average series. In comparison, Rings of Power disappeared from the charts two weeks after its last episode.
Worldwide, it’s impossible to gauge the viewership of House of the Dragon. Because HBO Max is not available globally, the series is broadcast by national pay-TV channels in most of the territories abroad, and it’s impossible to have an aggregate estimation of its viewership. Warner Bros Discovery did not even try to announce some viewing numbers globally.
Rings of Power is available globally on Amazon Prime Video, but Prime Video only shared viewing figures on only two occasions.
The first one was after the release of the first two episodes, and it taunted 25 million global viewers (a number for which we have no methodology).
25 million global viewers in the first 24 hours. Thank you for making #TheRingsOfPower the most watched series premiere on @PrimeVideo. pic.twitter.com/HeKCVNn5hx
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) September 3, 2022
The second time was in an interview of Jennifer Salke from October, just before the end of the season, in which Ms. Salke announced that the number of viewers for the series was cresting toward 100 million customers. Once again, no methodology was provided for how they came up to that number. Is Amazon Prime Video talking about viewers? Accounts? Viewings? Complete Viewings? It’s impossible to tell, and that distinction is important.
That only leaves us with Dahmer for which Netflix provided the number of hours viewed globally up to 7 weeks after its release.
Here’s what it looks like when compared to the US numbers per Netflix:
50 days after its release, the series was around 109 million CVEs, and it even reached 113M CVEs when Netflix announced the past week that it reached one billion hours viewed over its first 60 days.
To gauge how the series fared worldwide, we can turn to external numbers, one of which is the TV Time app.
Boasting millions of members around the globe, it also indicates how many members declared to have watched each episode of a series in the hundreds of thousands. A huge panel to analyze, and here’s how the comparison between the three series looks like at the beginning of December.
House of the Dragon seems to be the clear winner but let’s not forget that any indicator based on an online expression leaves out swaths of people that do not regularly use the Internet or apps such as TV Time. But among engaged fans of the series, House of the Dragon prevailed significantly.
One fun fact to notice on this chart is the decay rate and how it differs according to the series. The two weekly series, Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, lost 32% of ratings between the first episode and the last whilst Dahmer only lost 26%. That may be an indicator that binge-released series tend to keep their audience more captive than weekly series, but we’ll need to analyze more series to draw a definitive conclusion.
Another indicator to look at for worldwide performance is Google Trends as it is a snapshot of what people are looking for on Google at a given time.
We see here a classic depiction of how weekly series tend to sustain interest over time, while binge-released series tend to last longer but they explode when they are released. From that indicator, Dahmer seems to be the winner or at least the one that managed to enter the global zeitgeist for several days.
Let’s finish with TelevisionStats, another website that analyzes different indicators online to draw up a daily ranking of shows.
Rings of Power and House of the Dragon seem to hold better than Dahmer over the long run but let’s keep in mind the difference between weekly and binge-released series.
If we take a closer look at how the three series stand one month after the release of their last episode, House of the Dragon was still ranked 18th, Rings of Power was ranked 21st and Dahmer was ranked 23rd. There is not a lot of difference, but the weekly series still seems to be holding better.
It is very hard to draw up any kind of conclusion at the end of this article. I think Rings of Power is the least watched of the three series analyzed here because that shows all the data we have. But it is more of a toss-up between Dahmer and House of the Dragon.
There may be other variables to take into account when analyzing their performance. As we wrote, House of the Dragon and Rings of Power are part of larger universes, not brand new series.
On the other hand, Dahmer is based on the most famous serial killer there is so it’s not exactly a confidential topic either. On the marketing side, Rings of Power and House of the Dragon were hyped and teased very heavily before their release. In contrast, Dahmer was basically shadow-dropped by Netflix and only announced five days before the release.
The budget might also be one of these variables. Rings of Power Season 1 reportedly cost $450 million to produce, on top of which we have to add the price of the rights for the universe. House of the Dragon’s budget for season 1 reportedly is around $200 million (on top of which we could add the budget of the failed pilot of the first prequel envisioned that cost $30 million). Dahmer finally might be the cheapest of the three series with a budget tag of $60 million, but it comes on the heels of a $300 million exclusive deal between Ryan Murphy and Netflix.
The most honest thing one can do when analyzing streaming ratings is acknowledge that we will never know exactly how many people are watching shows. And we never did. The only thing we can do is try and compare the numbers we have in the fairest way possible.
Let’s hope that what we did in this article, and feel free to comment!