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10 Netflix Titles Rout the Streaming Rankings, but Nielsen’s Future Is Up in the Air

As Netflix dominates streaming, Nielsen's dominant hold on audience measurement is in doubt.


“Outer Banks”

Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix

There’s never been any doubt that Netflix is the most popular streaming service on the market, but if you need proof, look no further than Nielsen’s latest streaming report.

All 10 titles in Nielsen’s latest report on the most viewed streaming shows of the week were Netflix shows, including “Outer Banks,” which was viewed for a staggering 2.1 billion minutes, according to the report. The viewership for “Outer Banks,” which premiered its second season July 3 on Netflix, was more than most of the other titles on Nielsen’s list combined. The company’s report was based on viewership data from August 2 through August 8.

“Outer Banks” also topped Nielsen’s report last week despite only being available on Netflix for three days at the time of reporting; the show garnered 1.4 billion minutes of viewership in Nielsen’s previous report.

Netflix’s “Virgin River,” which has consistently been near the top of Nielsen’s streaming reports for several weeks, was the second most viewed show of the week with 547 million minutes viewed. “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Miami” came in third in the report with 321 million minutes viewed.

Nielsen’s data is only based on United States audiences using TV sets and only covers Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+. The company releases its streaming data reports on a roughly one-month delay due to an arrangement with the aforementioned streaming services. The entertainment industry’s major streamers do not regularly release their own verifiable viewership data.

In an ironic twist, Nielsen — which offers third-party accreditation for streaming viewership figures — lost its own third-party accreditation earlier this week. On September 1, the Media Rating Council suspended Nielsen’s accreditation, after months of tense back-and-forths between TV networks and the longstanding viewership tracker. The dispute centers on TV networks’ allegations that Nielsen altered its protocols during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in under-counting (which hurts the networks’ ability to earn fair rates for their advertising offerings). The MRC — which holds measurement organizations to standards on behalf of the media sector, working with advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types — found further evidence of miscounting in February 2021, and Nielsen soon asked for a hiatus to upgrade its methodology.

Nielsen will continue to produce ratings reports, even without the MRC’s accreditation, which will be formally withdrawn in mid-September. Nielsen is currently working on a cross-media measurement tool, titled Nielsen One, but it won’t be available until 2022.

“While we are disappointed with this outcome, the suspension will not impact the usability of our data. Nielsen remains the currency of choice for media companies, advertisers and agencies. We are committed to the audit process and during this pause in accreditation we will work with the MRC on resolving this suspension,” Nielsen said in a statement to Variety. “We will also take the opportunity to focus on innovating our core products and continue to deliver data that clients can rely on, ultimately creating a better media future for the entire industry.”

As for this month’s streaming report, titles from rival streamers that have regularly appeared in Nielsen’s last few reports, such as Disney+’s “Loki,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Amazon Prime Video’s “Bosch” were nowhere to be seen in Nielsen’s latest report. The next Nielsen report will factor in the premiere of Disney+’s “What If…?” animated Marvel Cinematic Universe show; time will tell if Disney’s first major foray into animated superheroics will court enough viewers to break into the weekly report that is currently being dominated by Netflix.

1. Outer Banks (Netflix) – 2,100 million minutes

2. Virgin River (Netflix) – 547 million minutes

3. Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Miami (Netflix) – 321 million minutes

4. Top Secret UFO Projects Declassified (Netflix) – 288 million minutes

5. Car Masters: Rust to Riches (Netflix) – 280 million minutes

6. Love Is Blind (Netflix) – 236 million minutes

7. The Snitch Cartel: Origins (Netflix) – 227 million minutes

8. Hit & Run (Netflix) – 226 million minutes

9. Lucifer (Netflix) – 223 million minutes

10. Glow Up (Netflix) – 220 million minutes

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