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Report: Americans Streamed 19 Million Years Worth of Content in 2022; ‘Stranger Things’ Led the Way

David Satin

The entertainment industry has certainly come a long way since Netflix first introduced the world to original content from a streaming service in 2013. Before that, essentially all content available to stream on any service was licensed from a third party. Fast forward to 2022, and a new report from Nielsen makes it clear that the takeover of streaming — and streaming originals — is right on schedule.

Nielsen’s report found that in total, Americans streamed 19.4 million years worth of content in 2022. Not minutes, YEARS. If you plugged that number into a time machine it wouldn’t take you all the way back to the dinosaurs, but you’d be a lot closer than you are now.

The past year was an incredible success for streamers in terms of engagement, especially for original shows. “Stranger Things” was the most-streamed content on any service, garnering 52 billion minutes of total viewing time throughout the year. Four of the top 15 titles of 2022 were originals, while the rest were acquired content.

But wait! If only four of the top 15 streamed shows and movies of 2022 were originals, how can it be claimed that originals had a huge impact on the streaming industry? It’s important to look at all of Nielsen’s data, especially the number of episodes available. Original shows like “Ozark” and “Cobra Kai” have 50 episodes or fewer but are still able to crack a top-15 list with shows that have hundreds of episodes available.

Most impressive of all is Netflix’s “Wednesday,” which managed to infiltrate the list despite having only eight episodes available, and despite premiering with less than two months remaining in 2022. When examining Nielsen’s data in this context, it is clear that viewing of original shows outpaced top-performing acquired content on an episode-by-episode basis, confirming studies from 2022 that showed how important original titles are.

Overall, the report shows the content formula that streamers are using to lure in new customers and prevent churn is mostly working. Original shows are now the main draw for potential subscribers, and acquired series like “NCIS,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds,” and “The Simpsons” offer the type of “lean-back” viewing that helps keep subscribers watching while they ponder the next original show to watch.

Longtime FX John Landgraf recently estimated that up to 80% of all TV watching was of the lean-back variety, demonstrating that while streaming services must continue to offer a wide array of quality originals to bring people in, they must also keep a healthy stock of acquired content that users are familiar with to keep them engaged in the downtimes.

Nielsen’s data also offered good news for the House of Mouse, as Disney+ was home to 10 of the top 15 streamed movies of the year. “Encanto,” which had the most time to be viewed after being released Dec. 24, 2021, saw more than double the minutes streamed of the next-highest film on the list “Turning Red,” which is now an Oscar-nominated film also on Disney+

The data should give Disney even more ammunition to push back against investors like Nelson Peltz who think the company should get out of the streaming business unless it makes dramatic changes.

Most streaming executives will tell you that 2022 was an incredibly difficult year for their companies. Wall Street is no longer rewarding streamers for piling up new users without a plan to make money off of them, and the pivot toward profitability has been difficult for many services. But there’s no doubt that Americans are turning to streaming for their entertainment more than ever, and original shows are helping the biggest platforms lead the way.

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