March Insights – Key drivers for global streaming success

Last month Cinelytic unveiled a new and exclusive “Streaming Consumption Score“, which offers our clientele the capability to forecast and monitor digital content consumption on a per-title basis across global platforms and countries.

We also recently shared the results from an exercise that showcased an interesting use case for this groundbreaking tool. Organizing data pulled from six selected genres and focusing on four recent and high-profile titles within each of them, we were able to demonstrate a clear correlation between streaming performance and critical feedback, as shown in the graphic below:

Upon review, it becomes apparent that the average streaming scores of the selected genres and titles exhibit a consistent and inverse relationship with overall critical acclaim as reported by Rotten Tomatoes (RT).

One common explanation for this phenomenon lies in the dynamics of audience preferences and behavior. Generally, films that receive high praise from critics tend to be more artistically or intellectually demanding and tackle sensitive or niche subjects. While such films often garner critical acclaim for their artistic merit, they may not necessarily appeal to the broader mainstream audience.

It’s important to note that while compelling, this conclusion is neither universal nor unprecedented, and the exercise only compared two data points and 24 total films. Fortunately, the Cinelytic platform is a rich source of constantly updated data, the newest addition of which are our new streaming scores. As such, we decided to focus this month’s insights on a deeper dive into six celebrated and recent 2023 titles of comparable budgets but differing genres.

Case Study: Comedy vs Drama

For this analysis, we focused on six titles (three comedies and three dramas) that released last year: PAST LIVES, THE HOLDOVERS, POOR THINGS, THE ZONE OF INTEREST, THE IRON CLAW and ANYONE BUT YOU:

While the three comedies came courtesy of three different distributors, all three dramas can be attributed to independent label A24. The films ranged in budget between US$12m and US$35m and had a wide range of theatrical release strategies with screen counts between 598 and 3,055.

Apart from ANYONE BUT YOU, the remaining titles all enjoyed overwhelmingly positive feedback from both audiences and critics, as per data provided by RT. Four of them (THE IRON CLAW, THE ZONE OF INTEREST, PAST LIVES and THE HOLDOVERS) performed very similarly in regard to both total box office revenues and their global streaming scores, averaging US$41m in the former and 57 in the latter, a figure that falls in line with the average exhibited by the acclaimed drama genre in the previously presented bar chart. Being a period piece with dramatic elements, it stands to reason that THE HOLDOVERS is a comedy title that performed more akin to a drama.

As for the two more expensive and star-driven movies in this bunch, POOR THINGS and ANYONE BUT YOU are comedies that enjoyed considerably more success, particularly in their theatrical runs. These two releases averaged US$165m in total box office and a slightly more impressive streaming score of 66.

While this analysis is without question enticing, it should be noted that the streaming scores presented thus far represent a global figure for a film’s performance across all territories. While that may be an impressive tool in and of itself, we at Cinelytic took it one step further.

Our proprietary streaming score’s true innovation that sets it apart is its normalization process, meticulously tailored to reflect the unique viewing behaviors and preferences within each individual market worldwide. Utilizing this tool, we are able to compare and contrast how a film performed domestically and internationally at the box office with its popularity on digital platforms in any country we choose to analyze.

Domestic vs International

As an additional exercise, we looked into the top five major film markets around the world where all six of these selected titles enjoyed both theatrical and streaming releases, and the results are quite interesting:

The international box office haul for POOR THINGS more than doubled its domestic total, and the table above reflects a similar phenomenon where its top three streaming territories represented foreign countries led by Italy. Despite an almost exclusively American lead cast, none of this should come as much of a surprise given the film’s renowned foreign director and international settings.

THE ZONE OF INTEREST and PAST LIVES performed in a similar manner as it pertains to the bulk of their box office revenue and top streaming territories coming from audiences overseas. This stands to reason given that both films largely utilize foreign languages and plots that are very specific to the countries that their stories focus on.

While there isn’t as much of a discrepancy between its domestic and slightly higher international box office revenues in the case of ANYONE BUT YOU, the Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell led romantic comedy did also enjoy its highest streaming score outside of the US and in the same country where the movie takes place: Australia.

The final two films represent American made period films that take place on American soil: THE IRON CLAW and THE HOLDOVERS. The latter, which is Alexander Payne’s latest Oscar winning partnership with Paul Giamatti, doesn’t present us with many surprises as it almost evenly split its global box office intake between domestic and international theaters and claimed the domestic market as its best streaming customer.

However, THE IRON CLAW, Sean Durkin’s fact-based biopic starring Zac Efron, interestingly represents the second American film in this comp set that claimed Australia as the territory that yielded its highest streaming score, despite making over four times more box office revenue domestically than it did internationally.

There’s More Where That Came From

All to say, there’s a lot you can do with per-territory streaming scores. Even with all this data, we all know there is no guarantee of success for a film at neither the box office nor on digital streaming platforms. Regardless of what test screenings, positive reviews or good word of mouth may signal, studios and streamers will frequently have the pleasure of experiencing surprises, both good and bad.

Unlike traditional box office metrics for theatrical releases, streaming platforms tend to keep detailed viewership data closely guarded. This lack of transparency makes it challenging for filmmakers and industry analysts to accurately assess the digital viewing performance of individual movies, hindering their ability to use them as direct comps when predicting the success of their own projects once they make their way to the “home viewing” world. While the secrecy surrounding streaming viewership data presents its challenges, creative adaptation and strategic analysis can help mitigate these and provide valuable insights into the performance of movies that are available for digital viewing. By leveraging our proprietary streaming score, our clients can make more informed decisions and optimize their strategies for success in the rapidly evolving landscape of streaming entertainment.