Nielsen, a U.S.-based data and analytics firm that tracks tv and streaming viewing habits, has released its lists of the most-streamed films and series of 2023.
Animated films that previously received theatrical releases dominated the 2023 film list, taking the top seven spots, with several years-old titles still holding an impressive grip on audiences. Nielsen’s chart seems to suggest that films which spend time in cinemas benefit from that exposure, sometimes for years after the release has finished its theatrical run.
Leading last year’s list was Disney’s 2016 animated feature Moana, which has figured in the top four for four years straight. More impressive, the now eight-year-old film scored Nielsen’s all-time single-year high of 11.6 billion viewing minutes. Since Nielsen began tracking streaming data, people have watched almost 80 billion minutes of Moana, approximately 152,200 years, which equates to roughly 775 million full viewings of the film.
Another Disney catalog film, Encanto, dropped into second place in 2023 after holding the top spot the year before.
The only new animated films to crack the 2023 list were Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, available on Netflix and Peacock, and Pixar’s Elemental, streaming on Disney+. Despite a huge disparity in their box office performances – Mario made $1.36 billion while Elemental grossed $496.4 million – the two films were extremely close in number of minutes viewed at 8.8 and 8.6 billion minutes, respectively. That’s especially impressive since Mario was available on Peacock more than a month before Elemental hit Disney+.
Fifth and sixth place belonged to Illumination films in Sing 2 (2021) and Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022).
But seventh place held a real surprise, as Disney’s Frozen, originally released in 2013 and available on streaming since 2019, went up one spot from eighth in 2022 to seventh in 2023.
When it came to series, animation didn’t fare quite as well, especially on the direct-to-streaming list, where the only animated series present was Netflix’s Gabby’s Dollhouse, an IP that looks ripe for further exploitation after a strong showing on Nielsen’s ratings and Netflix’s fist half of 2023 data dump. Gabby’s presence on the list was actually an improvement from 2022, however, when no original animated series even cracked the top 15.
Acquired animated series fared slightly better in 2023, with Disney+’s Bluey (second) and Netflix’s Cocomelon (fifth) both figuring in the top 10. Bluey doubled its viewing time from the previous year and overtook Cocomelon, the top kids’ program in 2021 and 2022.
Jamie’s Take: Based on Nielsen’s data, it would appear that releasing a film in theaters ahead of streaming has a benefit that endures for years after a movie has finished its theatrical run. In 2022, the second most-streamed film was Pixar’s Turning Red, which didn’t even make the top 10 for 2023. While we are still in the early days of streaming statistics, it certainly seems that studios who drop movies straight onto a streaming platform do lasting harm to those films’ legacies. These new Nielsen stats make a strong case that even films which had average theatrical runs like Elemental, Encanto (which only got four weeks in cinemas), and Sing 2 benfit from the afterglow of their theatrical release.