Black Widow: Not Exactly a Superhero in Streaming Ratings

The Scarlett Johnansson pic is the first major theatrically-released studio film on streaming to be tracked by Nielsen — and the downstream data doesn’t look so hot

Presenting our regular special edition from the the Entertainment Strategy Guy, our anonymous showbiz statistics guru and analyst.

Here’s a headline you could write about Black Widow’s performance when it became “free”—for paying subscribers—on Disney+ on Wednesday October 4th:

Black Widow rockets to the top of Nielsen’s Top Ten Streaming Films Chart”

That headline is true. Though probably not accurate, since “rockets” implies it did really well. And if one just looked at the Nielsen Top Ten list in the moment, sure it could apply:

(Yes, some eagle-eyed readers might notice I included 11 films. Nielsen defined Dave Chappelle’s special as a “TV Original”, and I define it as a film, since it is a standalone piece over 60 minutes in length.)

Divorced from context—as most headlines on Nielsen ratings are—Black Widow “winning the week” seems strong for Disney. But this performance just isn’t very impressive. A disappointment, if you will. This isn’t some random independent film acquisition, this is the latest film in the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One whose box office-PVOD double life was at the heart of the nasty Scarlett Johansson-Disney showdown. 

Let’s start with the context. In my Nielsen data set, of the 104 “first run” films—meaning airing first on streaming—and 14 “pay 1” films—meaning streaming 90+ days after theaters—Black Widow ranks 26th in week one launches. Considering the hundreds of films that never make the list at all, ranking just outside the top 25 all time is good. But “good” doesn’t really move the needle in streaming; you need to be excellent or elite.

Want some examples? Here's the top streaming films in their first week, then the films around Black Widow’s opening streaming number:

As you can see, the top films aren’t just a little bigger than Black Widow, but multiples better.

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