‘Stranger Things’ Surges Past ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ In Streaming Showdown, Posting Biggest U.S. Debut Since March 2020, Nielsen Says

The newest batch of episodes of Stranger Things, which arrived on Netflix the same day that Obi-Wan Kenobi premiered on Disney+, powered the show to 5.1 billion minutes of U.S. streaming in its first three days, according to Nielsen.

Obi-Wan, with shorter and fewer episodes, had a more subdued launch with about 1 billion minutes. Even so, it had the biggest debut in Disney+ and also made history as the first non-film title to hit 1 billion minutes of viewing in its first week.

The numbers were captured during the week of May 23 to 29. Both titles debuted on May 27, the start of the long Memorial Day weekend. Nielsen released the figures for the two series today, a departure from its usual rhythm of delivering streaming stats about a month after the fact, generally on Thursdays.

Netflix has staggered the Season 4 rollout of Stranger Things, with the first seven episodes landing in May and the final two hitting the service in July. The show is just the third title ever to crack 5 billion weekly viewing minutes, ranking No. 3 after pandemic darlings Tiger King, with 5.3 billion, and Ozark, with 5.2 billion. Those records were established during the intensity of the early Covid lockdowns in March 2020 amid an explosion of Netflix subscriptions.

The current Season 4 episodes of Stranger Things accounted for 4 billion of the total 5.1 billion minutes, Nielsen said.

Even with the split premiere setup, an increasingly prominent variation from Netflix’s defining binge-release mode, comparing the two series is a complicated process. It is also worth noting that the statistics that matter most in the streaming derby are those pertaining to subscriber levels and average revenue per user. In the traditional media era, overnight ratings or weekend box office were relied on as a universal proxy for overall financial performance, albeit an inexact one. In the streaming age, individual titles matter mostly insofar as they motivate customers to sign up for a service.

In terms of total minutes available, Stranger Things has 32 episodes from its full run, compared with just the first two for Obi-Wan. (Disney has mostly stuck with a more traditional release model of an episode or two at a time, and many of its Marvel and Star Wars spinoffs have more economical running times, another disadvantage in the Nielsen metric of total viewing.

In an effort to come up with a more viable head-to-head comparison, Nielsen isolated the performance of each debut episode of the season on the respective streaming services. Through that lens, the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi saw 4% more viewing than Stranger things, with 6.2 million total viewers compared with 6 million.

For the full three-day weekend, however, the first Stranger Things episode outdrew Obi-Wan, 12.7 million viewers to 11.2 million.

Since 2020, Nielsen has been tracking weekly streaming in the U.S. and now monitors five services: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Hulu. Other new players like HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount+ are not included in the weekly numbers.

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