‘The Rings Of Power’ Tops ‘House Of The Dragon’ In First Nielsen Ratings, But With Warped Data

The eternal quest to try and figure out how many people are watching a given streaming series is not going great. For the most part, we are reliant on things like self-reported top 10 list that show a ranking order, but no actual figures, and really only Netflix has chosen to publish actual hours viewed for its series as of late. Other places like HBO and Amazon only share when they have a talking point to brag about.

The standard for old school television ratings has always been Nielsen, but in this new digital era, they have tried to craft a new system to track streaming. It’s…a bit lacking, as evidenced by this most recent report being touted around Hollywood.

The headline is that Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has topped Nielsen’s streaming charts, including placing well above its fantasy rival, House of the Dragon. Big news, right? Well, consider the caveats:

This data is from over a month ago, the week of 8/29 to 9/4. So it’s talking about The Rings of Power’s double episode premiere, and measuring in minutes viewed, which you would of course expect to be…nearly double what you might expect from one episode. We are now on Episode 6 of the series, which aired today, making this data exceptionally old.

Nielsen’s streaming ratings also do not taking into account…cable. A show like Rings of Power literally does not exist on cable, while its main rival, House of the Dragon, airs Sundays on HBO, just like Game of Thrones used to. So here, House of the Dragon (its third episode was being measured that week, a month ago), is in fifth place on this list. But the headlines would indicate it’s being dominated by Rings of Power when it’s not just apples to oranges, it’s apple to horses as a comparison point.

We have:

  • Rings of Power airing its premiere five weeks and six episodes ago
  • Rings of Power airing two episodes at the same time
  • House of the Dragon airing on HBO which isn’t measured here

There are also other oddities on the list, like Game of Thrones actually being higher than House of the Dragon, which only makes sense when you realize that Thrones is not airing on cable, and the metrics here are counting rewatches of the series on HBO Max. And the number three show on the whole list is NCIS, where Netflix is airing 354 old episodes of that, and people are just absently binging those, meaning millions of minutes watched.

It’s not like there are any great alternatives here. I’ve cited Parrot Analytics here before, whose lists at least appear to make somewhat more sense, but their “demand metrics” often feel like voodoo. The only real, hard data is something like Netflix’s own top lists with actual numbers attached, but that only compares its own shows to each other, not to any rivals.

There are no great systems in place here, but Nielsen’s current model is probably one of the worst I’ve seen, with painfully old data and zero accounting for context or multiple platforms.

Follow me on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to my free weekly content round-up newsletter, God Rolls.

Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2022/09/30/the-rings-of-power-tops-house-of-the-dragon-in-first-nielsen-ratings-but-with-warped-data/