'The Boys,' 'Mulan' Break Netflix Stranglehold on Streaming Top 10 (Exclusive)

The Boys season 2 (Amazon) and Mulan (Disney+)
Courtesy of Amazon; Disney+

For the first time, Netflix has some company in Nielsen's rankings of the top streaming programs in the United States.

Amazon's series The Boys, from Sony Pictures TV, and Disney+'s movie Mulan made the top 10 for the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 6 (both debuted Sept. 4). They're the first two shows from a streaming platform other than Netflix to make the top 10 since Nielsen started releasing weekly rankings a month ago.

Another Amazon series, Upload, ranked 10th in the week of May 4, according to a Nielsen report about viewing trends in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Nielsen started measuring Disney+ (and Hulu) content for inclusion in the top 10 in mid-August.

Mulan's inclusion is notable because not just because it's the first Disney+ program to make the list, but also because it's not part of the regular Disney+ catalog — users have to pay a $29.99 premium to watch it. Disney hasn't revealed any revenue figures from the movie, but per Nielsen, viewers spent some 525 million minutes watching the film on its opening weekend — the equivalent of more than 4.52 million plays of the 116-minute movie. (That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that 4.52 million separate Disney+ accounts paid to see Mulan; the $29.99 premium allows for unlimited viewing after purchase.)

Research firm Screen Engine/ASI told The Hollywood Reporter that 70 percent of the audience for Mulan on opening weekend was made up of teenagers and adults under 35, a higher concentration than the average premium VOD title.

Cobra Kai, also produced by Sony, ranks first in Nielsen's rankings for Aug. 31-Sept. 6 with 2.17 billion minutes viewed. The first two seasons of the former YouTube series made their Netflix debut on Aug. 28.

Sony has two of the top three shows on streaming (per Nielsen's measurement) for the period, and the top-performing show on two different platforms. "We are thrilled that Cobra Kai and The Boys have resonated so broadly with viewers on Netflix and Amazon, landing at No. 1 on both platforms this week," said Sony Pictures TV president Jeff Frost. "We've long demonstrated our independence is a key strength, allowing us the unique opportunity to work with everyone and to find the right home for our creators' shows. Today it's more evident than ever with this unprecedented accomplishment. This amazing audience reception is also a true testament to the brilliant work of our talented creators and team at Sony."

Nielsen measures total minutes of streaming time for all episodes of a series. The Boys, in addition to being the first Amazon show to make the weekly list, is also the first streaming original series not to be released all at once to break into the top 10. Amazon debuted the first three episodes of season two on Sept. 4, with subsequent episodes rolling out weekly.

"Streaming is definitely having its moment. Among homes that can stream, a quarter of their TV time is spent doing it, and compelling content certainly helps to drive audiences to these streaming services. It’s very encouraging to see clients using our data to evaluate the performance of these programs and how it showcases their own unique audiences," said Scott N. Brown, general manager audience measurement at Nielsen. "The response to Nielsen's streaming top 10 has been very positive, and this week it highlights one studio placing both first and third in our rank. We look forward to the continued expansion of streaming measurement and providing the industry with this much-needed competitive insight."

The other new entry in the top 10 for Aug. 31-Sept. 6 is Netflix's Hilary Swank-led drama Away. Lucifer, which was No. 1 the prior week, is the only other streaming original on the list, finishing second to Cobra Kai.

Streamers contend that Nielsen data doesn't offer a complete picture of viewership for its programming, since it measures TV-set viewing only and doesn't count viewers in other countries. Netflix releases limited data on its content and uses a "view" metric that counts subscriber accounts watching at least two minutes of a show or movie — more akin to measurement on YouTube (30 seconds) and other online video. Amazon and Disney+ don't release viewer figures.

Nielsen's top 10 streaming programs for Aug. 31-Sept. 6 are below, with the prior week's rank in parentheses.

1 (2). Cobra Kai (Netflix), 2.17 billion minutes viewed
2 (1). Lucifer (Netflix), 1.42 billion
3 (nr). The Boys (Amazon), 891 million
4 (3). The Office (Netflix), 843 million
5 (7). Criminal Minds (Netflix), 675 million
6 (8). Shameless (Netflix), 639 million
7 (nr). Away (Netflix), 631 million
8 (7). Grey's Anatomy (Netflix), 616 million
9 (4). The Legend of Korra (Netflix), 541 million
10 (nr). Mulan (Disney+), 525 million