TBI Weekly: How savvy licensing & value-added originals are boosting Netflix’s numbers

One Piece

One Piece (Source: Netflix)

Forget the top 10 lists and watercooler talk, TBI’s Mark Layton delves into the latest Netflix engagement report to find out what the streaming giant’s viewers have really been watching and why licensed content is proving as valuable as its biggest originals.

Netflix has published the second edition of its biannual engagement reports, offering detailed viewing data for its shows and movies between July and December 2023.

As with the first instalment at the end of last year, the global streamer aims to share the full picture of what its audience is watching, beyond the mercurial Top 10 list.

Audiences watched more than 90 billion hours of content in the second half of 2023, with apocalyptic thriller film Leave The World Behind the clear leader among the streamer’s original offerings, racking up 121 million views.

This equates to 286,300,000 hours spent watching the Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke-led movie, which was no small feat as it only landed on the service on 8 December, so this figure will cover just three weeks of viewing time. With previous apocalyptic-themed features such as 2018’s Bird Box and 2021’s Don’t Look Up having also generated significant buzz, Netflix may have a winning genre on its hands.

However, the report also underscored the immense value of licensed content to Netflix. Much has already been made of the resurgence of NBCUniversal’s Suits following Netflix licensing the legal drama last year, to the extent that NBC is planning a spin-off series Suits: LA and Netflix says it is looking to make more such astute acquisitions.

But the report highlighted its true value to Netflix, with the series garnering 144 million views across its nine seasons in the second half of 2023 and outstriding the 121 million views of Netflix’s own Leave The World Behind.

Another licensed standout was Young Sheldon, which made headlines last year when Warner Bros. Discovery agreed to share the US rights with Netflix, along with its own streamer Max.

Major US players are increasingly willing to return to third-party deals, and this show has been another successful acquisition for Netflix, with the title generating 88 million views that might otherwise have gone to Max.

Other big licensed performers in H2 2023 were ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy with 51 million views; The CW’s tween series Gossip Girl with 49 million views and Gilmore Girls, originally on The WB and The CW, bringing in 45 million views.

Suits (Source: NBCUniversal)

Remakes and spin-offs adding value to library content

Back on the originals front, Adam Sandler-voiced kids’ feature Leo became Netflix’s biggest animated film to date with 96 million views, despite also launching late into the second half of 2023 with a 17 November debut.

Spanish survival thriller Nowhere became the streamer’s third most popular non-English language film ever with 86 million views.

In series, One Piece, the live action adaptation of the manga fantasy adventure, was the most popular title on Netflix in the second half of last year, with 71.6 million views for its debut season.

No surprise, then, behind Netflix’s decision to renew the show for a second season just two weeks after its 31 August release, with the Tomorrow Studios series clocking in at 541,900,000 hours viewed by the end of December.

The adaptation also had a knock-on effect for the earlier anime series and film versions of One Piece, more than doubling their viewership, to generate a further 50 million or so views for those titles in the second half of the year as fans sought out earlier iterations of the franchise.

Netflix reported a similar impact caused by its reality competition spin-off Squid Game: The Challenge, which received 33 million views, while also increasing viewership for the original Korean thriller series by 34% – three years after Squid Game first premiered.

Squid Game: The Challenge (Source: Netflix)

Non-English language and ongoing series bringing in views

Aside from the global phenomenon of Squid Game, non-English language shows continue to be a major audience draw for Netflix, making up nearly a third of all viewing worldwide.

Korean dramas generated 9% of all views on Netflix, with Spain bringing in 7% and Japanese shows garnering 5% of views. However, it’s not just shows from those countries performing well.

Among the most-watched titles in the second half of 2023 were German thriller Dear Child with 53 million views, Polish drama film Forgotten Love with 43 million views and Mexican telenovela Pact Of Silence with 21 million views.

While Netflix has gained something of a reputation for cancelling shows after just one season, its report shows that the streamer is still gaining considerable value from its ongoing titles, which are generating strong audience interest even if they are not particularly recent launches.

The first three parts of French crime series Lupin generated almost 100 million views between July and December 2023, with kids’ show CoComelon also a strong performer with close to 200 million views across its eight seasons during the period.

Fantasy drama The Witcher, which Netflix has announced is to wrap after its upcoming fourth and fifth seasons, saw 76 million views for its first three seasons combined, with romantic drama Virgin River picking up 69 million views and British royal drama The Crown generating 50 million views.

Newer shows with fewer seasons under their belt, and less recent movies, are also continuing to draw in viewers, with Wednesday, Red Notice and the aforementioned Squid Game, still proving big hits for Netflix.

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