Ted Lassos an Impressive Audience

‘Ted Lasso’ Was 2023’s Most-Watched Streaming Original In U.S. As ‘Suits’ Led Acquired Content Boom, Nielsen Says
Ted Lasso went out on a high note at Apple TV+. According to Nielsen, the series was the most-watched streaming original last year, despite the fact that Apple TV+ has the fewest subscribers among …

We all love Ted Lasso, but this is rather surprising:

Ted Lasso went out on a high note at Apple TV+.

According to Nielsen, the series was the most-watched streaming original last year, despite the fact that Apple TV+ has the fewest subscribers among the streamers that saw their content ranked in Nielsen’s streaming Top 10.

Apple’s small footprint didn’t keep the Jason Sudeikis-fronted series from putting up 16.9B minutes across all 24 episodes in 2023. That’s 2.5B more than second place, which went to Netflix’s 'The Night Agent'. In fact, Netflix claimed most of the ten most-streamed originals last year, only giving away two more spots — one to Prime Video for 'Jack Ryan' and another to Disney+ for 'The Mandalorian'.

Granted, the methodology here is all sorts of silly:

Part of the reason that streaming originals can’t hold a candle to the acquired content is simply the “real estate,” Fuhrer said. In the case of 'Suits', Netflix negotiated the rights to eight out of nine seasons, which totaled around 124 episodes. With typical 40-minute runtimes per episode, that’s more than enough to keep these procedurals trending for months at a time. The same goes for 'Friends', 'Gilmore Girls' and 'The Big Bang Theory', which are also among the yearly Top 10.

In other words, both longer shows and shows with a larger catalog greatly benefit from this particular rating system. On one hand, you get why they do it that way – hours watched are hours watched – on the other, to gauge actual popularity, they should probably normalize these numbers. As in, how many hours were watched on average out of a total number of hours that could have been watched (to account for shorter shows and shows with fewer episodes in the can). It still wouldn't be perfect, but the hours thing just feels weird for comparisons.

Still, the streamers clearly want those hours-eating shows. These are pure churn prevention. And Netflix, in particular, can boost such shows, it seems:

During this time, the industry saw the old become new again, as more studios began licensing content to Netflix. It wasn’t just 'Suits'. HBO struck a deal with Netflix for several titles including 'Band of Brothers', 'Insecure', 'Ballers', 'The Pacific' and more. Nearly all of them benefitted from their availability on Netflix, managing to penetrate the Nielsen charts.

Whether the other studios like it or not, the Netflix effect is fairly undeniable. As Fuhrer said, “Netflix has an 80% penetration across the U.S. — by far the biggest footprint of any of the streamers…That’s incredible strength.”

As discussed last week, Netflix is basically the base layer of TV now.

Back to Ted Lasso, the most impressive element of it topping these charts is that it's a relatively short show with relatively few back episodes. And, as noted, it's on Apple TV+, which is the smallest of the major streaming players. Yes, the numbers were undoubtedly boosted by the fact that Lasso kept getting longer episodes as they built towards the finale – something I argued for from almost day one – but it still speaks to how greatly that show resonated with the audience. They clearly sought it out and came back to it. And as such, I imagine, Apple basically has to figure out a way to come back to it now.1

1 I suspect they always planned to bring it back, just perhaps without Sudeikis' Lasso himself. Sort of like when The Office continued on without Steve Carell's Michael Scott. But I also suspect Apple may figure out a way to bring Sudeikis back now given these numbers. After all, The Office wasn't called Michael Scott. The other characters are fine on Ted Lasso, but only one is its beating heart.