Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler as the gyrating rock ‘n’ roll icon, has been streamed for a total of about 2.7 billion minutes by HBO Max viewers in the U.S. since it came to the platform Aug. 8, 2022, according to new data from Nielsen.
That makes “Elvis” the most-streamed title on U.S. subscription services among the films nominated for in the Oscars best picture category this year — but only if you are looking at the platforms for which Nielsen reports metrics.
What’s important here: Nielsen’s Streaming Content Ratings do not include Paramount+, which added “Top Gun: Maverick” on Dec. 22, whereupon it became the service’s most-streamed movie premiere to date. Nielsen also does not report streaming estimates for Showtime, which has the rights to best-picture frontrunner “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
So Nielsen currently has no reportable insight into how “Top Gun: Maverick,” the highest-grossing movie of 2022, performed on subscription VOD. Nor can it give you any idea the size of the audience that critical darling “Everything Everywhere All at Once” reached on SVOD.
Indeed, Nielsen has reportable data through Feb. 12 on just four of the 10 Oscars best-picture contenders: “Elvis,” “All Quiet on the Western Front” on Netflix (1.6 billion minutes streamed since Oct. 22 release); “The Banshees of Inisherin” on HBO Max (489 million minutes since Dec. 13 release); and “Tár” on Peacock (128 million minutes streamed since Jan. 27 release).
Three of the nominees — “The Fabelmans,” “Triangle of Sadness” and “Women Talking” — are available for digital rental or purchase but not on SVOD, while “Avatar: The Way of Water” is not available on any (legal) digital or streaming platform.
Let’s return to “Elvis” for some context that Nielsen’s data set can provide. As noted above, over the roughly six-month period during which the Warner Bros. pic has been on HBO Max, it has garnered about 2.7 billion minutes of viewing. That sounds like possibly a hefty viewership haul for “Elvis”… until you consider that two movies in 2022 generated more total watch-time in one week, per Nielsen.
No. 1 on this front was Netflix’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (2.89 billion minutes from Dec. 26, 2022-Jan. 1, 2023), followed by “Hocus Pocus 2” on Disney+ (2.73 billion minutes from Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2022). In its first week on Disney+, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” pulled in 2.27 billion minutes (Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2023), becoming the third-biggest movie in its first week of viewing on a streamer, as currently measured by Nielsen. None of these three extremely popular streaming titles is on the Oscars best picture ballot.
What are the takeaways from this, other than that Nielsen still has some gaps in its metrics matrix?
One of Nielsen’s points is that with audiences returning to theaters throughout 2022, four of this year’s best picture nominees have yet to land on a streaming service. When the 94th Academy Awards were held on March 27, 2022, nine of the 10 best picture contenders already had been made available on streamers (the exception was “Licorice Pizza”). The streaming availability of the titles so close to the Oscars ceremony also fueled a halo effect of viewership, as audiences streamed almost 8.5 billion minutes of the nine best picture nominees throughout all of 2022, according to Nielsen.
However, while streaming may have once been seen as a potential saving grace for prestige films that underwhelmed at the box office, data from PlumResearch shared exclusively with Variety Intelligence Platform indicates otherwise. Aside from “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Elvis” and “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the performance of this year’s Oscars best picture nominees (again, of the titles on SVOD platforms) has been comparatively paltry, per PlumResearch’s data. (Like Nielsen, PlumResearch is unable to measure Showtime data, so it doesn’t have a read on “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”)
“The good news is that this doesn’t seem to matter much in the awards circuit,” VIP+ media analyst Kaare Eriksen says. “If anything is apparent, it’s that the audience for the core of awards fare has grown difficult to sustain outside of the industry itself.”
Meanwhile, back to Nielsen’s issues. The omission of Paramount+ is a pretty big blind spot, considering that the service counted nearly 56 million customers at the end of 2022. Nielsen is expected to be able to report Paramount+ viewing as part of its measurement mix sometime later this year (and that should include, for example, data on “Top Gun: Maverick” from its initial release date). Currently, the firm reports viewing for Amazon’s Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock and Netflix.
There are other shortcomings with Nielsen’s Streaming Content Ratings. They’re U.S.-only, whereas the major streaming platforms (with the exception of Hulu and Peacock) are available in multiple countries. In addition, the Nielsen streaming figures are based on viewing on connected TVs, excluding mobile devices and computers. Also, the firm extrapolates U.S.-wide estimates using data collected from households that are part of the Nielsen national TV panel.
The bottom line is that the data we do have shows what we’ve always known: awards-targeted arthouse films have more limited commercial appeal than, say, “Avatar 2” or “Top Gun: Maverick,” regardless of how many Oscars nominations they’ve picked up. As VIP+’s Eriksen notes, “Streaming popularity typically reflects what was popular at the box office.”