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Report: Netflix Generated a Third of Engagement in 2021 and Owned Over Half of Releases

Lauren Forristal

According to a newly released 2021 streaming industry trends report from Diesel Labs, Netflix’s volume of engagement continued to be robust among the eight major streamers analyzed. Netflix accounted for more than half of streaming original releases last year and obtained over a third of the engagement.

The streaming giant had nearly twice as many new “engagers” in 2021 as Paramount+, Apple TV+, Peacock, and Hulu combined, and about as many as Disney+ and HBO Max combined. During the year, 63% of Netflix’s 2021 audience engaged for the first time. Further, Netflix accounted for 57% of the original content releases and 35% of the engagement.

However, Netflix’s engaged audience growth rate was modest in comparison, at 32%. To put things into perspective, the largest engaged-audience growth rates were logged by Peacock (377%), Apple TV+ (367%), HBO Max (320%), and Disney+ (141%). Volume-wise, HBO Max and Disney+ significantly surpassed Peacock and Apple TV+. The growth rate for newcomer Paramount+ was at 99%, and well-established services Amazon Prime Video and Hulu were both up 55%.

Nearly 96% of Peacock’s audience engaged with the platform for the first time in 2021. 93% of Apple TV+’s audience were newcomers. Disney+ only generated 5.4% of originals, but 29% of the engagement, whereas HBO Max generated 22% of the engagement and 11% of the originals. Meanwhile, Apple has signaled a growing investment in original content, but so far, that hasn’t translated to a larger share of audience attention and engagement.

Taking a Closer Look

Whether they are old-timers or new entrants to the streaming landscape, all of the platforms saw notable engaged audience growth year-over-year. Diesel Labs found a 7% overlap between the engaged audiences of Netflix and HBO Max in 2021, and a 2% overlap between Disney+ and HBO Max, with 5% engaging across all three platforms.

Of the top ten breakout hits, Netflix had the most, but HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and Prime Video each had at least one. Nearly all the titles were categorized under the action and adventure genre.

Netflix

While “Squid Game” ranked number one for both overall Netflix engagement and new engaged audience acquisition, it was the only Netflix release to make the top 10. “Malcolm & Marie” and “The Kissing Booth 3” also performed well, which suggests that the company’s growing investment in content is paying off. Titles based on or adapted from existing IP also showed success, such as “Shadow and Bone” and “Arcane.” All in all, 52% of the Netflix audience engaged with action and adventure content the most. Drama and comedy content were also among the top three media genres.

In terms of competitive content, the Netflix audience slightly favored content from HBO Max (16.8%) over Disney+ (15.6%).

Disney+

The MCU rules Disney+, and the year 2021 was no different. Marvel’s Phase Four dominated the platform’s top five titles with new Marvel series like “WandaVision,” “Loki,” “Hawkeye,” “What If…,” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” practically fueling Disney+ overall audience engagement. Family movies like “Cruella” and “Jungle Cruise,” as well as the Beatles documentary series “The Beatles: Get Back,” were also notably popular titles. 89% of the Disney+ audience engaged with action and adventure content.

Other streamers the Disney+ audience favored were Netflix and HBO Max, as 47.2% engaged with Netflix titles and 30% with HBO Max content.

Hulu

In 2021, a few key titles like the critically acclaimed “Only Murders in the Building,” “Nine Perfect Strangers,” and “Reservation Dogs” led the way for engagement. “Framing Britney Spears” and “Nomadland” also performed relatively well. 76% of its audience engaged with drama content. The majority of Hulu’s catalog is tied to traditional TV, however, as content-licensing agreements start to expire, there’s a good chance Hulu will begin investing more in originals.

More than half of its audience engaged with Netflix titles, and over a third with content from HBO Max.

HBO Max

Action and adventure movies like Zack Snyder’s “Justice League,” which generated the most engagement out of all HBO Max releases in 2021, delivered in spades for the streamer. Also, the much-anticipated “Friends” reunion special attracted new engaged audiences. The family-friendly “Space Jam” sequel took third place. Overall, the top three media genres were action and adventure, drama, and comedy. 60% of the HBO Max audience engaged with action and adventure content.

In addition, 48% of the HBO Max audience engaged with Netflix titles, and 28.4% engaged with content from Disney+.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon saw success around original movies this year, especially with the comedy sequel “Coming 2 America,” which premiered 33 years after the original film yet had the highest engaged audience lift (9.9%), grabbing second place for overall Amazon Prime Video engagement. The rebooted “Cinderella,” starring Camila Cabello, garnered a 2.1% lift. Also, “The Wheel of Time” was Prime Video’s most engaged-with title for the whole year of 2021. 61% of the audience engaged with action and adventure content.

More than half of Amazon Prime Video’s audience also engaged with Netflix content and 35% with HBO Max titles.

Apple TV+

Best known for “Ted Lasso,” Apple TV+’s Billie Eilish documentary (5.2% lift), comedy series “Schmigadoon!,” and the drama “Cherry” brought in new engaged audiences and generated significant audience engagement during 2021. As the streamer ramps up spending on original content, there’s a good chance it will start attracting more audience attention. 87% of the Apple TV+ audience engaged with comedy content.

Also, 49% of its audience engaged with Netflix content and 34% with HBO Max titles.

Peacock

Sequels performed the best for Peacock with “Halloween Kills,” the latest installment in the Halloween franchise, delivering a 9.9% engaged audience lift and was the service’s most engaged-with original title in 2021. “Boss Baby: Family Business,” the second Boss Baby movie delivered a 2.1% lift, and the third Psych film also engaged audiences at a high level. 56% of the Peacock audience engaged with sitcom content. Drama and action and adventure were also the top preferred media genres.

Over half of the 2021 Peacock audience engaged with Netflix titles, and over a third with HBO Max titles.

Paramount+

New titles based on existing IP performed best for the streaming service, such as the “iCarly” revival, which delivered the highest engaged audience lift (9.6%) and was in second place for overall engagement. Family movies like “PAW Patrol: The Movie,” “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” also attracted new engaged audiences for Paramount+. Along with family-friendly titles, reality series like “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” and “The Challenge: All-Stars” produced high levels of engagement for Paramount+ over the year. 57% of the audience engaged with the drama genre.

Of its audience, 53% engaged with Netflix titles during the year and a third with content HBO Max titles.

Key Insights

As streaming service fees begin to add up, consumers may have to pick and choose where to spend their money. The high prevalence of content related to existing IP illustrates just how valuable franchises remain for top drivers of audience attention and engagement. For instance, book and video game adaptations are gaining steam, as seen with “Arcane,” “Shadow and Bone,” “The Wheel of Time,” “Nine Perfect Strangers,” and “Foundation.”

The sheer volume of attention that Disney+ received around the new Marvel series is additional proof, plus HBO Max’s success with the latest installment in the “Godzilla” franchise and “Justice League.” While part of the conversation around streaming platforms this year has been focused on the investment and rollout of original content, it’s clear from the data that existing IP and franchise content are just as important as the hottest new titles.

2021 was also a year of testing and learning, particularly when it came to scheduling and distribution. The extremely varied approaches to releasing content had some platforms stuck with the weekly release model for shows, and some streaming services employed hybrid approaches. WarnerMedia quickly adjusted its course to push theatrical releases to HBO Max, however, CEO Ann Sarnoff suggested that strategy will not continue in 2022. Meanwhile, Netflix continued to make nearly all-new series episodes available at once

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