Best of ’23: What Suits Netflix’s Viewers Should Suit Other Streamers’, No?

I’ve arguably been more naughty than nice to Netflix since these musings began.  Why, just about a year ago a holiday “best of” harkened back to the spring of ’22, when then-chairman Reed Hastings announced their intentions to start cracking down on password sharing as their way to stop what was then a relative trickle of bleeding.  We were dubious even then.

And, of course, last week’s holiday gift of “transparency” gave many pundits a chance to parse through tens of thousands of lines of data, revealing that even that much is sorely lacking both in usable depth and narrative.   And since we’ve got an awful lot of time on our hands coming up in the next couple of weeks, I kinda doubt it’s gonna end any time soon.

But just when I thought I may have been overly harsh on our sweet little Teddy Bear, along came NextTV’s Dan Frankel and David Bloom, with apparently some piss and vinegar mixed in with their eggnogs and latkes, to draw out some even more compelling analysis that kinda puts Teddy’s gift in the category of deflection.  The highlight to me was the following:

There’s a lot more worthy of your time and attention in what they’ve dropped, and I strongly encourage you to devour it with full credit given to them.  But I’ll also take a small little bow of my own that, back in July, note was taken here of just how Netflix was apparently already dealing with the potential of that kind of narrative.  SUITS came to their rescue at what would seem to be a crucial point, and their more recent opportunistic arms dealings with more desperate competitors are points that Frankel and Bloom harp on with justification.  

As you revisit what was shared then, we can only look forward to Teddy’s next iteration of what they claim will now be regular releases of this data, and can only hope that more and more piss and vinegar fuels a desire–and need–for still more transparency, and perhaps one of these years some other credible source will emerge with something with the timeliness and scale of Netflix’s massive data base to actually answer some of these burning questions.  (Psst: Nielsen, you’re on the clock):

My roommate does spend a fair amount of time with his TV, though his choices, especially in entertainment, are typically not those of the masses.   He is at best a moderate sports fan, so, unlike me, he doesn’t contribute to the records that the NFL and even women’s soccer set on a regular basis.  Often, I’ll find he landed on a tile that caught his eye on You Tube and went down a rabbit hole, and when he’s in that zone, I’m as respectful as he is to me when he finds me passed out in exhaustion or frustration while I’m trying to stay awake during a Mets game.

But earlier this month, I noticed he was watching a show that I vaguely remembered from its original eight-year run on USA Network, SUITS.  And while SUITS was by many measures a respectable and enduring performer, churning out nine seasons and 134 episodes between 2011 and 2019, it was hardly a show that broke viewership records or set the awards world on fire.  It debuted with 4.64 million viewers and a 1.4 adults 18-49 rating, a winner among cable networks, to be sure, but essentially what another reliable but underwhelming companion piece, BURN NOTICE, was delivering at the time.  By the time it ended its run, those numbers had diminished to less than a million total viewers and a 0.2 in the demo.  And it bridged what was a transitional era for USA as its management and conten became more aligned with the balance of the other NBCU cable networks, eventually scaling back on the “Blue Sky”, flyover-states-skewing original dramas that were its bread-and-butter as it competed with TNT for the populist audience crown, into an era where its running mates were the more esoteric choices such as MR.ROBOT and the ambitious but far less successful DEADLY CLASS, which I had the challenge of trying to leverage its outsized social media popularity into actual TV viewers with little success.

As it turned out, he was actually part of some TV history, as DEADLINE’s Katie Campione reported yesterday:

The USA Network series saw an impressive 3.1B viewing minutes during the week of June 26 to July 2 across the two streaming services, according to Nielsen’s latest streaming data. That marks a 36% increase in viewership from the week prior and another week atop the Nielsen streaming charts.

This is unusually high viewing time for an acquired series and breaks the record for an acquired series in one measurement week.

According to Nielsen, Manifest previously hit a record-breaking (among acquired content) 2.5B weekly viewing minutes in June 2021 — meaning that Suits blew past that record by 650M.

And while that data is, frustratingly, based upon Nielsen’s ad-centric insistence that its partial-lens numbers based on time-shift-inclusive data with a three-week lag time be what they base their streaming data press releases upon, Netflix’s more inclusive and more recent charts based on its own proprietary global measurement confirms that SUITS’ popularity is still white-hot: per COLLIDER’s Carly Lane, for the week that ended last Sunday SUITS ranked #5 among TV shows in the U.S., one of only three non-Netflix originals on their list, though the anime series Baki Hanma that scored more viewers didn’t get this kind of recognition from a seemingly surprised trade press.

Yes, SUITS is the show that featured the breakout work of the polarizing wife of Prince Harry Windsor, Meghan Markle.  And she’s part of what is often a winning formula for TV series–shows set in law offices with impossibly good-looking people winning cases and bedding each other, not to mention a few other randos, in the process.  It worked for LA LAW back in the day, and SUITS certainly has its roots in that show.  And critics seem to be complimentary to its more prominent cast members; Wikipedia provdes this recap of the show’s critical reception:

On Metacritic, the show has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on reviews from 29 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews” [49][50][51] On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 91% approval rating with the Season 3 consensus reading, “Though it’s occasionally overly wordy, Suits stimulates with drama derived from the strength of its well-developed characters’ relationships.”[52] Carrie Raisler of The A.V. Club said, “Suits has more internal forward momentum than [al]most anything else on television right now, and when it’s on, like it mostly is here, it just cooks.”[53] Julie Hinds of The Detroit Free Press said, “The combination of Gabriel Macht as slick attorney Harvey Specter and Patrick J. Adams as unlicensed legal genius Mike Ross has been a winning one.”[54]

Its debut on Netflix just happened to coincide with–coincidentally  (or not) the same day as King Charles III’s first Trooping the Colour event, as Kelly Woo of TOM’S LIST noted.  And my roommate confirmed that Netflix’s decision to push out that new title to the algorithms that serve as its most powerful way to gain awareness among its subscribers was how he  learned the show was now on Netflix.  But being a Universal property, it has been available on Peacock since that series’ inception, and episodes, including the Markle-less ninth season which inexplicably Netflix is not licensing, have been available for transactional purchase on Prime Video as well.   But Peacock, which yesterday bragged about reaching 24 million subscribing households, still only reaches a fraction of Netflix’s footprint, and doesn’t release an iota of data that would allow even the most detail-oriented of us to determine how many of those 3.1 billion minutes that Nielsen’s calculations noted were included in those newsworthy totals came from them.

What we are seeing here may be part of the justification for competitors such as Warner Discovery and Disney to decide to license some of their shows non-exclusively beyond their own walled-garden platforms.  Much noise was made earlier this month when Netflix acquired rights to episodes of INSECURE, an original series that curried a lot of favor and brand identity with HBO.  But even with that legacy, as well as its star Issa Rae reemerging as the president of Barbieland, INSECURE isn’t showing up on any kind of Netflix-approved ranking this week, and considering its linear popularity in its heyday was nowhere near that of SUITS’, I’m betting it’s not likely to at any point.   And considering Peacock isn’t taking its own victory lap this week,  I’m also betting it wasn’t breaking any viewing records for Peacock within its cozy little world, either.

What NBCU has gotten is what Wall Street observers seem to love–incremental value out of an aging property that raises the ultimate value of its IP.  And unless the recent executive switchouts have all but eliminated any sort of forethought, I have to believe that some sort of revival of the show has to be in the works.  Macht hasn’t seemed to pop up in any more recent work since SUITS ended its USA run; Adams has since turned up on Broadway in a Tony Award-winning role in the revival of TAKE ME OUT, where he notably has performed fully nude and frontally visible.  (So, ironically, is the suit he’s now known for his birthday suit?)

I’m fairly sure assuming any scrupted production does eventually resume, these stars would be available for the right price.  And at the rate things have been going with the Royal Family, not to mention the fate of the ill-fated production deal that she and her hubby signed with Netflix, perhaps even Markle might be able to be coerced to come on board. even if just for a couple of transitional episodes.

The one thing that Harry and Meghan did deliver for Netflix waa the eponymous documentary series that supposedly blew open the inner workings of the Royal Family.  That did do well for Netflix, so it’s clear where those algorithmic recommendations to folks like my roomie and perhaps the appetite to even acquire SUITS in the first place came from.  I just wonder why someone at Peacock might not have picked up on this in the first place, or even teased out that they’re aware–or care–about the fact that they’re clearly sitting something that could actually raise that 24 million subscriber base substantially were it to come to pass.

I can only surmise that the creative “suits” in Peacock and Universal’s C-Suite these days aren’t as savvy as the SUITS their sales team opportunistically gleaned a few bucks for the bottom line for.  But hey, that PUNKY BREWSTER reboot was certainly worth a go, wasn’t it?

Until next time…

 

 

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