Bragging Rights?

While an awful lot of people actually left their homes to watch TOP GUN: MAVERICK in a movie theatre over the holiday weekend, an awful lot of other households apparently chose to watch TV somewhere else.  Both Netflix and Disney+ set records with the respective launches of seasons of STRANGER THINGS and the OBI-WAN KENOBI series.  At least according to Samba TV.

Samba TV is a measurement platform that comes from a company that’s been around for more than a decade, initially providing technology that allowed media companies to develop apps that can be integrated into Smart TVs.  As sales of such TVs grew, the company aggressively pursued acquisitions and partnerships that has allowed it to develop capabilities to measure viewing to content and ads across both connected TVs and devices, and currently has a sample of more than 46 million global households, a majority of which are in the United States.  It relies on an interactive panel of opted-in homes that, in theory, provides a richer and more inclusive picture of consumption than more traditional, service-reliant panels such as Nielsen can.

We first started seeing Samba’s numbers when HBO Max released WONDER WOMAN ’84 on PVOD during Christmas 2020, at the height of the initial grip of the pandemic and as news of linear TV’s freefall and Nielsen’s measurement challenges came to light.  The Warner Media team used the Samba data to highlight the film’s relative success despite the limited theatrical box office and, of course, to help justify the controversial decision to release the film directly to households in the first place.  As 2021 unfolded, Samba’s capabilities and utility grew, and it became a more frequent data source in press releases and earnings reports.

So with the pandemic still raging in millions of people’s minds and the competitive landscape for streaming content at its peak, as well as the battle among measurement companies to document it, it was a perfect storm of opportunity and necessity that produced yesterday’s release from Samba that crowed about how OBI-WAN’s 2.14M HHs in L+3 “slayed the viewership of the respective premiere weekends of S2 of MANDOLORIAN S2, BOOK OF BOBA FETT and even MOON KNIGHT.  And STRANGER THINGS S4’s premiere episode reached nearly 2.9M HHs, which Netflix data corroborates with data that adds that since the May 25 drop the seven available episode logged nearly 287M hours of viewing,

Certainly, there’s almost an endemic need for both Disney and Netflix to have good news to report, given the pounding their respective stocks have taken in recent months, not to mention their respective companies’ reputations in the public sector.  Both services relied on much-anticipated drops of new seasons of well-established franchises, not to mention growing availability of TVs and viewers that can be measured by Samba, as well as an exceptionally challenged and troubled time where in spite of record reported desire to travel millions who can’t afford gas or still cringe at the prospect of flying chose to check in with these services–you know, the ones they pay for monthly and often forget to watch.

And Samba was johnny on the spot with providing it, complete with quotes from its CEO bragging about these performances, particularly OBI-WAN.  As reported in Deadline by Anthony D’Alessandro:

Beamed Ashwin Navin, CEO of Samba TV, “Big name-brand properties are attracting some of the largest streaming audiences we see for their premiere weekends. As ad-supported streaming models continue to gain steam, these huge weekend draws are going to be critically important for brands that are looking for incremental reach beyond linear TV.”

Thanks, Captain Obvious.

A lot of people watched TV, aside from sports little else new was on and an awful lot of them chose to check out heavily promoted, familiar titles from the comfort of their own homes.  And yep, there’s a heck of a lot of STAR WARS fans that were happy, even if sadly more than a few of them vented about Moses Ingram in the process.  And in light of the fact that Nielsen’s ability to provide timely measurement of that is still under construction, no one can fault Samba for charging in and reporting all of this to an eager investment community just as they were coming off their holiday highs and getting back to work after a month where media stocks took more than a haircut.  Nor can one fault Disney for using the data to brag about reaching new highs in an exceptionally competitive landscape.

Would it be too cynical to note that Disney just happens to be an investor in Samba, and that this followed up on a report last month from Nielsen that HBO Max finally reached their threshold for inclusion in their monthly rankings–at precisely the time when new senior management took over the company and its long-time head of research Liz Huszarik was exiting?


But rather than snark, let’s instead congratulate all three of these companies for attempting to get us to focus on something positive and timely as so much else has been going wrong of late. It may not necessarily be news that’s all that surprising for those that actually know what’s going on.  But it’s sure better to niggle about this than debate whether 18-year-old boys should be able to purchase AR-15s.  I’d rather have them brag about how many episodes they streamed on their Samba-enabled Smart TVs.  Wouldn’t you?

Until next time…



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