Audiences were treated to quite the streaming showdown over Memorial Day Weekend as Netflix released the first seven episodes of “Stranger Things 4” and Disney+ dropped the first two episodes of “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” But in streaming’s never-ending battle for eyeballs and attention spans, which blockbuster release emerged more victorious?
Even as “Obi-Wan” hit Disney+ slightly earlier (9pm PT Thursday night) than “Stranger Things” Season 4 Volume 1 dropped on Netflix, the new “Star Wars” series simply couldn’t compete with the number of episodes “Stranger Things” has delivered over the years. As a result, the first four seasons of the Netflix series accrued 5.1 billion U.S. TV viewing minutes from May 23-May 29 while episodes 1 and 2 of “Obi-Wan” delivered 1 billion, according to Nielsen (which does not measure viewership via laptops, tablets, and mobile devices). Yet this general minutes viewed metric doesn’t tell the whole story as it skews in favor of longer-running series.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi” delivered Disney+ its largest original series premiere weekend ever, becoming just the third non-movie title to exceed 1 billion viewing minutes. (“Loki” did it twice in July 2021 but with five episodes and the following week with six).
“Stranger Things 4” is just the third title to ever break the 5 billion weekly viewing minute mark, placing it third overall behind lockdown-aided releases “Tiger King” (5.3 billion) and “Ozark” (5.2 billion). Season 4 accounts for more than 4 billion minutes on its own, with two more (super-sized) episodes set to arrive in July. Globally, the new season set a Netflix record with 286.79 million hours viewed from May 23-May 29, according to Netflix’s weekly Top 10 lists.
When looking at “minutes available,” “Stranger Things also holds an advantage with 32 episodes vs. 2 for “Obi-Wan” as well as longer durations within those 32 episodes. For a more direct comparison, Nielsen looked at each premiere episode (“Stranger Things” Season 4, Episode 1 vs. “Obi-Wan” Season 1, Episode 1) and tallied the total viewers within the average minute of each episode.
When judging the competition with this metric for the Friday premiere, “Obi-Wan” achieved a 4 percent advantage over “Stranger Things” (6.2 million total viewers vs 6.0 million total viewers). Yet when Nielsen studied the entire premiere weekend tally, “Stranger Things” Episode 1 attracted 12.7 million viewers in the average minute vs. “Obi Wan” Episode 1’s 11.2 million viewers. Both average audience and minutes viewed dropped by two-thirds for “Obi-Wan” compared to half for “Stranger Things 4.”
When Nielsen then went back to minutes viewed, the difference in episode duration (53 minutes for “Obi-Wan Kenobi” Season 1, Episode 3 vs. 76 minutes for “Stranger Things” Season 4, Episode 1) becomes more apparent and, along with the receptive consumers themselves, helps provide the Netflix hit with a 38 percent advantage for Friday, and a 63 percent tilt by the end of the weekend.
The binge model also drives more immediate cultural conversation as opposed to weekly releases. “Stranger Things 4” drove 2.99 million total tweets in its first three days post-launch (May 27-May 29) while “Obi-Wan” drove 474,000, per social media analytics platform ListenFirst.
Combined, the two blockbuster releases drove 6.2 billion viewing minutes. So even if Netflix scored a slight advantage over Disney+, it was really audiences that won overall.
This story has been updated with additional data.